Celebrating All Saints Eve with the Public Domain Review

It’s Halloween (or: All Hallow’s Eve, if you want to be accurate; or Beltane, if you don’t like that version; or, frankly, whatever Witch you got on Tonight…); so, in celebration of this night of windy moors and starlit skies, here are some spooky images courtesy of The Public Domain Review.

These photographs of ‘spirits’ are taken from an album of photographs unearthed in a Lancashire second-hand and antiquarian bookshop; taken by a controversial medium called William Hope (1863-1933).

Simultaneously scary, cheesy, and simply wonderful, they remind us of the rich legacy of many different photographic practitioners working over the last two centuries. What’s almost most interesting is that these images now fall into the public domain.

All works eventually fall out of copyright – unless you’re Disney, or a similar corporation that can tend your intellectual copyright needs forever, and fight them when they become contestable – and the world is full of lapsed material from talented (and non-talented!) people that has fallen into the public domain.

The Public Domain Review is an organization that embraces all the cool old stuff that has fallen through the cracks. It’s a non-profit that runs an amazing website (http://publicdomainreview.org/) dedicated to showcasing the most interesting and unusual out-of-copyright works available online.

From classic works of art, music and literature, to abandoned drafts, tentative plans, and overlooked fragments, there is a vast commonality of material that everyone can enjoy, share and utilize upon without restriction. The Public Domain Review believes that “the public domain is an invaluable and indispensable good, which – like our natural environment and our physical heritage – deserves to be explicitly recognized, protected and appreciated.”

It’s an interesting model; especially in a time when every single mediocre Internet idea is copyrighted way beyond necessity. Hidden gems can emerge from this rich terrain of archival material, and the Review makes this material available via a newsletter; an archive of articles on the website; and specific collections, curated via films, audio, images and texts.

The Public Domain Review works alongside Open GLAM, an initiative run by the Open Knowledge Foundation that promotes free and open access to digital cultural heritage held by Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums.

The organization relies on support from readers to keep them going, so click the link and check out this amazing resource.

And Happy Halloween!

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