CriticalPast.com was voted one of the “The Top 100 Web Sites of 2010” by PCmag.com, and rightly so. The site boasts a total of 57,409 viewable clips and 7 million photos “in one of the world’s largest collections of royalty-free archival stock footage” and offers “immediate downloads in more than 10 SD and HD formats, including screeners in all formats.” As the site reviewer at PCmag.com accurately remarked, “If it got captured for the news in the early part of the 20th century, there’s a good chance the footage you seek is here.”
CriticalPast.com was founded in 2007, by the brother team of Jim and Andy Erickson, along with a supporting group of archival research, film, and Internet professionals, to create “one of the largest privately held online archival footage sources in the world.” The collection is “drawn largely from U.S. government agency sources, the clips and images in the CriticalPast.com collection are available for license without the clearance concerns encountered when ordering from typical stock footage providers.” So, this impressive video collection is free to browse and view on site (although, not surprisingly, you do have to pay for use off site) and the still photos are even “available for download as JPEG files, or you may take advantage of our professional photo printing services and have prints delivered right to your door.”
Finally, an archive that is sophisticated, professional, and plentifully sourced. CriticalPast.com is an impressive example of a modern digital archive. The site is attractive and easy to navigate, browse, and search. The “browse by decade” visual aid is especially useful, allowing users to browse videos from 1890 to 1990, and take a quick inventory of the available stock. The decade of the 1940’s is, by far, the largest collection with 23, 188 viewable clips (and growing). This is, in my opinion, a fantastic and exciting resource for historians interested in twentieth century and contemporary history.