Private archives/Public Good: Classic Mexican film online

I love the connectedness of semantic web.  I first came across this project to make classic Mexican cinema available online when Ernesto Priego (@ernestopriego) tweeted about it and sent on this link for a free trial which ends today (28th February 2012): http://univstandrewse-resources.blogspot.com/2012/01/trial-e-resource-classic-mexican-cinema.html.   I retweeted it to spread the word, then some Facebook friends posted about it.  Last week I received notification of it through a listserv and then today I was contacted by Arjan van Dijk, the Acquisitions Editor Latin American Studies with BRILL, who found me through this website.  The new link is: www.brill.nl/publications/online-resources/classic-mexican-cinema-online and, according to Arjan

“It contains film magazines from the period 1902-1965, rare lobby cards, and the personal scrapbook of Fernando de Fuentes, all scanned from the archives of the Filmoteca of the UNAM in Mexico City.”

I appreciate all of these people drawing it to my attention either directly or indirectly.  It is an excellent facility and one that could be of considerable use to researchers and students.  I had been very excited about it, but then saw that it has to be paid for to access.  That’s a pity, but I suppose inevitable. 

When I carry out research in Mexico, I spend a lot of my time at the Filmoteca.  There, all access is free.  It is an archive that they want to share with whomever can make their way there to access the material.  It is a well organsied and pretty comprehensive archive, staffed by people eager to share their knowledge and allow you access to the information contained within.  It is sad that this same material cannot be available online for free. 

I understand that BRILL is a commercial enterprise that needs to make money, and, no doubt there were costs involved in the publication of this archive.  However, should such material, which is free one place, not be free to access for all?  This is about ownership, but also about  how research and learning is becoming increasingly privatized.  Should such knowledge not be treated as a public good?

This, I think, will be an ongoing blog post as it is an ever-evolving situation.

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