by Angela Terrab

Like an iceberg, the public domain is massive, and most of it is hidden from sight. Luckily, this iceberg has a team of explorers dedicated to mapping it’s extents! The Public Domain Review is a godsend for anyone who knows that the public domain is full of great content waiting to be discovered and utilized, but who doesn’t have the time or know-how to dig it up themselves. (And let’s face it, that’s probably most of us.)

Browse the collections by medium, time period, or keyword.

Browse the collections by medium, time period, or keyword.

Created by the Open Knowledge Foundation, The Public Domain Review is a slick, beautiful site that draws from digital archives   across the world to bring viewers a well-organized, curated look at the best the public domain has to offer.

The About page captures site’s ethos — part erudite, part whimsical, and completely dedicated to the mission of sharing information:

“. . .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. . . . 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 heart of the site is its collections, which include images, texts, and audio-visual materials from around the world. (Unlike your typical digital archive, The Public Domain Review even has animated GIFs to streamline your viewing of, for example, “The Knife Throwing Mother.”) Collections are organized by medium, time period, keyword, or source, making them imminently browsable.


“Knife Throwing Mother,” one of the strange and wonderful GIFs from The Public Domain Review.

Additionally, The Public Domain Review publishes essays biweekly (or “each fortnight,” as they put it), with contributors including seasoned historians, ambitious grad students, and even avid amateurs. With a clear, well-defined policy on open submissions, The Public Domain Review  opens its doors to anyone interested in exploring the nooks and crannies of history. Current essays are divided into categories such as “Religion, Myth, and Legend” or “Science and Medicine” and examine a range of historical figures from Marcel Proust to  the Elephant Man.

The public domain is vast, but there’s no need for that vastness to be intimidating. Check out The Public Domain Review, and get exploring!

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