Founded in 2011, The Public Domain Review is an online journal and not-for-profit project dedicated to promoting and celebrating the public domain in all its richness and variety.
All works eventually fall out of copyright – from classics works of art to absentminded doodles – and in doing so they enter the public domain, a vast commons of material that everyone is free to enjoy, share and build upon without restriction. Our aim is to help our readers explore this rich terrain – like a small exhibition gallery at the entrance to an immense network of archives and storage rooms that lie beyond.
With a focus on the surprising, the strange, and the beautiful, we hope to provide an ever-growing cabinet of curiosities for the digital age, a kind of hyperlinked Wunderkammer – an archive of materials which truly celebrates the breadth and variety of our shared cultural commons and the minds that have made it.
The Main Parts of the SiteThe Collections – The vast majority of the content exists in our curated collections of images, books, audio and film, in which we shine a light on curiosities and wonders from a wide range of online archives. Some highlights include visions of the future from late 19th century France, a dictionary of Victorian slang and a film showing the very talented “hand-farting” farmer of Michigan.
The Essays – Every two weeks we publish a new long-form essay in which leading scholars, writers, archivists, and artists offer insight and reflection upon the oft overlooked histories which surround public domain works – from a history of the smile in portraiture to the case of the woman who claimed to give birth to rabbits. Contributors include Julian Barnes, George Prochnik, Frank Delaney and Richard Hamblyn. (If you’d like to contribute please see our Submissions page).
Curator’s Choice – In this series each month a curator from a gallery, library, archive, or museum picks out highlights from their openly licensed digital collections. Contributors include The British Library, the Rijksmuseum and the UK National Archives.
We’ve also got a section dedicated to Animated GIFs made from public domain material, and a monthly Caption Competition.
The NewsletterEvery fortnight, accompanying the publication of our latest essay, we send out an email newsletter of all the most interesting content that we’ve recently featured. Visit here to subscribe and get a sneak-preview of what to expect.
The ShopWe’d made some things to sell, returning a few select images from their pixel-based existence back into the world of real objects from whence they once came – Prints, T-shirts, Mugs and More. Visit the main shop page to begin exploring.
SupportWe are a not-for-profit endeavour and survive entirely on reader’s donations. We need your support to keep the project alive: visit our support page to put a little something in our tip-jar, or sign up to become a patron with a monthly donation. Whether big or small, everything helps.
The SourcesThrough our essays and collections we aim to help promote the outstanding work that numerous projects, organisations and volunteers have been undertaking to digitise and openly publish public domain works on the web. We have also created a guide to finding interesting public domain works to encourage more of our readers to explore these resources for themselves.
PressVisit our our testimonials page to read some of the nice things people have said about the project, including a feature in The Guardian which hailed us as “a model of digital curation”. You can also read some interviews with our Editor here at Vice Magazine, Now Then Magazine, and PopTech.
Re-using MaterialAs our name suggests all the historical works found on our site are in the public domain, at least somewhere in the world. Care should be taken as laws on re-use and what is in the public domain varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For more info on this, and on re-distributing the text of essays and posts, see the guide to re-using our material.
The Open Knowledge FoundationThe Public Domain Review is a project of The Open Knowledge Foundation – a project dedicated to promoting open data and open content in all their forms – and works closely alongside Open GLAM, a fellow Open Knowledge Foundation initiative, that promotes free and open access to digital cultural heritage held by Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums.
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