New Albums by Robert Plant, Ryan Adams & Justin Townes Earle Streaming Online for a Limited Time


Quick note: If you’re not familiar with it, NPR’s First Listen site lets you stream new albums by major artists. And this week’s lineup deserves a special mention. First Listen is featuring Robert Plant’s new release Lullaby And… The Ceaseless RoarThe album, writes NPR, is “an expression of many kinds of rich, autumnal love: of the English countryside to which Plant recently returned after several years living and working in Nashville and Texas; of the musical diaspora he’s been exploring since Led Zeppelin first connected its American-inspired blues to North Africa in ‘Kashmir’; of the Celtic and Romantic literary lines he’s always favored; and of a woman, whom the songs’ narrator treasures but, for reasons upon which at least half of the album dwells, leaves behind.” You can stream it here for a limited time.

While at NPR, you might also want to hear Ryan Adams by, yes, Ryan Adams. It’s his 14th album, and, says The New York Daily News, it “goes all in for neo-classic rock. It draws on the kind of serrated riffs Keith Richards likes to hone — but weighted with the heavy bottom and burning organ of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.” In addition to this new album, Adams recently dropped a limited edition EP called 1984. The punk-inflected collection appears below.

Last but not least, NPR is serving up Justin Townes Earle’s fifth album, Single Mothers. Many of the songs offer a take on “the mercurial nature of infatuation.”

Stream away, but don’t delay. The albums usually remain online for a week at most.

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Extensive Archive of Avant-Garde & Modernist Magazines (1890-1939) Now Available Online


Having once been involved in the founding of an arts magazine, I have experienced intimately the ways in which such an endeavor can depend upon a community of equals pooling a diversity of skills. The process can be painful: egos compete, certain elements seek to dominate, but the successful product of such a collaborative effort will represent a living community of artists, writers, editors, and other masters of technique who subordinate their individual wills, temporarily, to the will of a collective, creating new gestalt identities from conceptual atoms. As Monoskop—“a wiki for collaborative studies of art, media and the humanities”—points out, “the whole” of an arts magazine, “could become greater than the sum of its parts.” Often when this happens, a publication can serve as the platform or nucleus of an entirely new movement.


Monoskop maintains a digital archive of printed avant-garde and modernist magazines dating from the late-19th century to the late 1930s, published in locales from Arad to Bucharest, Copenhagen to Warsaw, in addition to the expected New York and Paris. From the latter city comes the 1924 first issue of Surrealisme at the top of the post. From the much smaller city of Arad in Romania comes the March, 1925 issue 1 of Periszkóp above, published in Hungarian and featuring works by Picasso, Marc Chagal, and many lesser-known Eastern European artists. Just below, see another Paris publication: the first, 1929 issue of Documents, a surrealist journal edited by Georges Bataille and featuring such luminaries as Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier and artists Georges Braque, Giorgio De Chirico, Salvador Dali, Marchel Duchamp, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, and Pablo Picasso. Further down, see the first, 1926, issue of the Bauhaus journal, vehicle of the famous arts movement founded by Walter Gropius in 1919.


The variety of modernist and avant garde publications archived at Monoskop “provide us with a historical record of several generations of artists and writers.” They also “remind us that our lenses matter.” In an age of “the relentless linearity of digital bits and the UX of the glowing screen” we tend to lose sight of such critically important matters as design, typography, layout, writing, and the “techniques of printing and mechanical reproduction.” Anyone can build a website, fill it with “content,” and propagate it globally, giving little or no thought to aesthetic choices and editorial framing. But the magazines represented in Monoskop’s archive are specialized creations, the products of very deliberate choices made by groups of highly skilled individuals with very specific aesthetic agendas.


A majority of the publications represented come from the explosive period of modernist experimentation between the wars, but several, like the journal Rhythm: Art Music Literature—first published in 1911—offer glimpses of the early stirrings of modernist innovation in the Anglophone world. Others like the 1890-93 Parisian Entretiens politiques et littéraires showcase the work of pioneering early French modernist forebears like Jules Laforgue (a great influence upon T.S. Eliot) and also André Gide and Stéphane Mallarmé. Some of the publications here are already famous, like The Little Review, many much lesser-known. Most published only a handful of issues.


With a few exceptions—such as the 1923 Japanese publication MAVO shown above—almost all of the journals represented at Monoskop’s archive hail from Eastern and Western Europe and the U.S.. While “only a few journals had any significant impact outside the avant-garde circles in their time,” the ripples of that impact have spread outward to encompass the art and design worlds that surround us today. These examples of the literary and design culture of early 20th century modernist magazines, like those of late 20th century postmodern ‘zines, provide us with a distillation of minor movements that came to have major significance in decades hence.

via Hyperallergic

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Three Outlandish Tracks from Van Morrison’s 1968 “Revenge Album”: “Ring Worm,” “Want a Danish?” & “The Big Royalty Check”

In 1968, Van Morrison cut tracks for what’s been called his “revenge” or “contractual obligation album.” The backstory, provided by Top Tenz, goes like this:

After a pretty unhappy couple of years with his label Bang Records in the mid-60s, Van Morrison wanted out. They demanded he deliver some more short and poppy stuff like Brown Eyed Girl, while he wanted to release 11-minute renditions of lion impersonations (which he did on the album Saint Dominic’s Preview.) The singer became so distraught with his label situation, that he slipped into financial trouble and had problems finding gigs.

Just when it seemed Morrison might never deliver on his musical potential, Warner Music stepped in and bought out his deal with Bang Records. There was still one small contractual detail though. Morrison was obliged to record exactly 36 songs for his old label, who would also continue to earn royalties off anything he released for the first year after leaving Bang. Not a patient man at the best of times, Van did the only thing he could think of: he recorded more than 30 songs in a single recording session, on an out-of-tune guitar, about subjects as diverse as ringworm, blowing your nose, a dumb guy named George, and whether he wanted to eat a danish or a sandwich.

You can hear “Ring Worm” above, and both “Want a Danish?” and “The Big Royalty Check” below.

Deemed unworthy, the songs Morrison banged out (cheap pun, I know!) weren’t released in the 1960s. They eventually saw the light of day, however, on the 1994 album Payin Dues, which happens to be available on Spotify for free. According to rock critic Richie Unterberger, the album ranks as “the least commercial music ever recorded by a major rock artist, and the nastiest spit in the eye of commercial expectations and contractual obligations.” But, there’s certainly an entertainment factor to the collection, and it should be noted that Payin Dues also includes some worthwhile tracks, including all of Van Morrison’s studio masters from the Bang years, plus the demo of “The Smile You Smile” and an alternate take of “Brown Eyed Girl”.

via UBUweb/WFMU

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Roald Dahl’s Touching Pro-Vaccination Leaflet: “It Really is Almost a Crime to Allow Your Child to Go Unimmunised”


Generations of us know Roald Dahl as, first and foremost, the author of popular children’s novels like The BFGThe WitchesCharlie and the Chocolate Factory (that book of the “subversive” lost chapter), and James and the Giant Peach. We remember reading those with great delight, and some of us even made it into the rumored literary territory of his “stories for grown-ups.” But few of us, at least if we grew up in the past few decades, will have familiarized ourselves with all the purposes to which Dahl put his pen. Like many fine writers, Dahl always drew something from his personal experience, and few personal experiences could have had as much impact as the sudden death of his measles-stricken seven-year-old daughter Olivia in 1962. A chapter of Donald Sturrock’s biography Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl, excerpted at The Telegraph, tells of both the event itself and Dahl’s stoic, writerly (according to some, perhaps too stoic and too writerly) way of handling it.

But good did come out of Dahl’s response to the tragedy. In 1986, he wrote a leaflet for the Sandwell Health Authority entitled Measles: A Dangerous Illness, which tells Olivia’s story and provides a swift and well-supported argument for universal vaccination against the disease:

Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.

“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.

“I feel all sleepy,” she said.

In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.

The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was twenty-four years ago in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her.

On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunised against measles. I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962 because in those days a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered. Today a good and safe vaccine is available to every family and all you have to do is to ask your doctor to administer it.

It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness. Believe me, it is. In my opinion parents who now refuse to have their children immunised are putting the lives of those children at risk. In America, where measles immunisation is compulsory, measles like smallpox, has been virtually wiped out.

Here in Britain, because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year. Out of those, more than 10,000 will suffer side effects of one kind or another. At least 10,000 will develop ear or chest infections. About 20 will die.


Every year around 20 children will die in Britain from measles.

So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunised?

They are almost non-existent. Listen to this. In a district of around 300,000 people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunisation! That is about a million to one chance. I should think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunisation.

So what on earth are you worrying about? It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.

The ideal time to have it done is at 13 months, but it is never too late. All school-children who have not yet had a measles immunisation should beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible.

Incidentally, I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was ‘James and the Giant Peach’. That was when she was still alive. The second was ‘The BFG’, dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children.

Alas, this message hasn’t quite fallen into irrelevance. What with anti-vaccination movements having somehow picked up a bit of steam in recent years, it might make sense to send Dahl’s leaflet back into print — or, better yet, to keep it circulating far and wide around the internet. Not that others haven’t made cogent pro-vaccination arguments of their own, in different media, with different illustrations of the data, and with different levels of profanity. Take, for instance, Penn and Teller’s segment below, which, finding the perfect target given its mandate against non-evidence-based beliefs, takes aim at the proposition that vaccinations cause autism:

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Conspiracy Theory Rock: The Schoolhouse Rock Parody Saturday Night Live May Have Censored

You’ve probably seen “Illusion of Choice,” a 2011 infographic detailing how six media conglomerates “control a staggering 90% of what we read, watch, or listen to.” (The entities named are GE, News Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS.) Another “Illusion of Choice” infographic from last year documents how “ten huge corporations control the production of almost everything the average person buys.” Are these webs of corporate connection kooky conspiracy theories or genuine cause for alarm? Do the correlations between business entities cause political currents that undermine democracy and media independence? It’s not particularly controversial to think so given the amount of money corporations spend on lobbying and political campaigns. It’s not even particularly controversial to say so, at least for those of us who aren’t employed by, say, Viacom, Time Warner, GE, etc.

But pointing fingers at the corporatocracy may have not gone over so well for famed comedy writer Robert Smigel in 1998 when his recurring animated “Saturday TV Funhouse” segment produced the “Conspiracy Theory Rock” bit above for Saturday Night Live. A parody of the beloved Schoolhouse Rock educational ‘toons of the 70s, “Conspiracy Theory Rock” features a disheveled gentleman—a stereotype of the outsider crackpot—leading a sing-along about the machinations of the “Media-opoly.” Figured as greedy octopi (reminiscent of Matt Taibbi’s “vampire squid”), the media giants here, including GE, Westinghouse, Fox, and Disney, devour the smaller guys—the traditional networks—and “use them to say whatever they please and put down the opinions of anyone who disagrees.” The segment may have raised the ire of GE, who own NBC. It aired once with the original episode but was subsequently pulled from the show in syndication, though it’s been included in subsequent DVD compilations of “Saturday TV Funhouse.”

Now “Conspiracy Theory Rock” is circulating online—amplified by a Marc Maron tweet—as a “banned” clip, a misleading description that feeds right into the story of conspiracy. Editing a sketch from a syndicated comedy show, after all, is not tantamount to banning it. While the short piece makes the usual compelling case against corporate rule, it does so in a tongue-in-cheek way that allows for the possibility that some of these allegations are tenuous exaggerations. Our unwashed presenter, for example, ends the segment mumbling an incoherent non sequitur about Lorne Michaels and Marion Barry attending the same high school. For his part, Michaels has said the segment was cut because it “wasn’t funny.” He’s got a point—it isn’t—but it’s hard to believe it didn’t raise other objections from network executives. It wouldn’t be the first time the show has been accused of censoring a political sketch.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Wonderfully Weird & Ingenious Medieval Books

Medieval Books

Leiden University book historian Erik Kwakkel describes his tumblr site as follows: “I post images from medieval books.” In the words of Samuel L. Jackson on the immortal Snakes on a Plane, you either want to see that, or you don’t. Presuming you do (and given your presumable status as an Open Culture reader, it strikes me as a safe bet) know that Kwakkel doesn’t maintain just any old images of medieval books; his posts tend to highlight the askew, the obscure, and the innovative, further demonstrating that we need not find the “dark ages” dull. At the top of the post, you can see one photo of the several he posted of the biggest books in the world, in this case the “famous Klencke Atlas” from the 16th century. “While they are rare, such large specimens,” writes Kwakkel, “they do represent a tradition. Choir books, for example, needed to be big because they were used by a half circle of singers gathered around it in a church setting. If you are impressed with the size of these objects, just imagine turning their pages!”

Siamese Books

Above, we have an example of what Kwakkel calls “Siamese twins,” two books bound as one using an odd binding “called ‘dos-à-dos’ (back to back), a type almost exclusively produced in the 16th and 17th centuries.” You could read one text one way, then turn the thing over and read a whole other text the other way. “You will often find two complementary devotional works in them, such as a prayerbook and a Psalter, or the Bible’s Old and New Testament. Reading the one text you can flip the ‘book’ to consult the other” — no doubt a handy item, given the religious priorities of the average reader in the Europe of that era. The animated image below highlights a related and equally unusual binding effort, a dos-à-dos from the late 16th century containing “not two but six books, all neatly hidden inside a single binding (see this motionless pic to admire it). They are all devotional texts printed in Germany during the 1550s and 1570s (including Martin Luther, Der kleine Catechismus) and each one is closed with its own tiny clasp.”

dos a dos

If this kind of highly vintage, labor-intensive bookmaking gets your blood flowing, make sure to see see also Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, the 700-page 17th-century guide to colors we featured in July, and which Kwakkel covered on his blog back in April: “Because the manual is written by hand and therefore literally one of a kind, it did not get the ‘reach’ among painters — or attention among modern art historians — it deserves.” Just one more reason to appreciate the internet, even if, as a medium, you far prefer the medieval book.

Keep tabs on Kwakkel’s tumblr site for more unusual finds, and don’t miss his other blog, Medieval Fragments, where he and other scholars delve more deeply into the wonderful world of medieval books.

Medieval Color

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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David Lynch’s Musical Play Industrial Symphony No. 1: Dream of The Broken Hearted (1989)

It is time, I thought to myself just a couple weeks ago; time, I thought, to watch Twin Peaks again. How I had missed Leland Palmer’s crazed dancing/crying jags, Agent Cooper’s straight-shooting cornball savvy, Audrey Horne’s tongue-in-cheek slinkiness, and the absolute nightmare of Bob. How I had especially missed the haunting score of Angelo Badalamenti and the ethereal interludes of Julee Cruise. Immersed now in the second season, I already mourn the premature end. But you can imagine my delight when I discovered the film above, a Lynch musical play scored by Badalamenti and showcasing the otherworldly voice of Cruise, who appears as “The Dreamself of the Heartbroken Woman.” Cast as the actual heartbroken woman is Lynch stalwart Laura Dern, whose heart is broken over the phone by then-young-heartbreaker Nicolas Cage. Rounding out the cast is another familiar face, Michael J. AndersonTwin Peaks’ “Little Man From Another Place”—appearing here as “Woodsman/Twin A.” Logs are sawn, neon signs flicker, dancers writhe, and Badalamenti’s twisted cool jazz lulls us into bizarre Lynchian neo-noir terrain.

Created as a live show during the filming of Wild at Heart, the play, Industrial Symphony No. 1: Dream of the Broken Hearted, made its on-stage debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1989. The filmed version above appeared in 1990, the same year Twin Peaks came to television. Much of the music, in fact, came directly from Badalamenti’s score for the upcoming series. Lynch, who wrote the lyrics for the ten Cruise songs, described the piece as “one great big, long mood”—an appropriate way, really, to characterize his entire body of work. “There isn’t much point in trying to decrypt its symbolism,” writes High-Def Digest. It’s “mostly a hodgepodge of images and motifs from the director’s earlier works. What little semblance of narrative construct it has is delivered in a video prologue starring Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage, obviously reprising their ‘Wild at Heart’ characters.” The title “Industrial Symphony” comes from a series of mosaic collages Lynch made while a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the piece has the feel of a mosaic of Lynchian elements coming together as mostly incoherent performance art. Some viewers may find the almost total lack of narrative sense off-putting, but this is “a must for fans of Cruise,” who delivers some powerfully affecting performances.

via Network Awesome

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Read a Never Published, “Subversive” Chapter from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

chocolate factory unpublished chapter

50 years after the publication of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Guardian has posted online a never-before-published draft of the book’s fifth chapter. It was cut from the first printed editions of Dahl’s classic, writes The Guardian, because it was considered “too wild, subversive and insufficiently moral for the tender minds of British children.” You, the reader living in 2014, will likely have a hard time figuring out what the fuss was about.

The lost chapter, appropriately illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake, begins:

The remaining eight children, together with their mothers and fathers, were ushered out into the long white corridor once again.

“I wonder how Augustus Pottle and Miranda Grope are feeling now?” Charlie Bucket asked his mother.

“Not too cocky, I shouldn’t think” Mrs Bucket answered. “Here – hold on to my hand, will you, darling. That’s right. Hold on tight and try not to let go. And don’t you go doing anything silly in here, either, you understand, or you might get sucked up into one of those dreadful pipes yourself, or something even worse maybe. Who knows?”

Little Charlie took a tighter hold of Mrs Bucket’s hand as they walked down the long corridor. Soon they came to a door on which it said:


“Hey, this is where Augustus Pottle went to, isn’t it?” Charlie Bucket said.

“No”, Mr Wonka told him. “Augustus Pottle is in Chocolate Fudge. This is Vanilla. Come inside, everybody, and take a peek.”

The chapter continues at The Guardian.

Related Freebies: If you head over to Quentin Blake’s web site, you can find some items that are “fun & free” — like free e-cards designed by Blake; free wallpaper for your iPhone, iPad and desktop; and free drawings that you can color in. Meanwhile offers The Roald Dahl Audio Collection, which features Dahl himself reading sections from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You can get the collection for free by joining Audible’s 30-day Free Trial program. Please read the details about the Free Trial program here, and know that we have a partnership with So, if you make a purchase, it will help support Open Culture.

via Mental Floss

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Miranda July’s Quirky Film Presents Somebody, the New App That Connects Strangers in the Real World

Having owned an iPhone for all of one month, I’m still a bit leery of all it can purportedly do for me. Convenience is great, but I’m not sure I’m ready to cede control of all the little tasks, challenges, and puzzles my own imperfect brain has been handling more or less well for nearly half a century.

I don’t hate blundering. And I really like interacting with librarians, local residents, and strangers who might be willing to use my camera to take a group photo in a restaurant or scenic location. 

Filmmaker Miranda July’s just released Somebody is, I suspect, something of a niche app.

If you cringe at the idea of flash mobs, Improv Everywhere, and audience interactive theater, it is most definitely not for you. 

It’s absolutely perfect for me (or will be once I get up to speed on my touchscreen.)

Basically, you take a selfie, create a profile, and wait for a stranger to select you to deliver a live message as his or her proxy. In addition to trawling the area for the designated recipient, you may be called upon to weep, hug, or get on your knees to get that message across.

Will you make a new friend? Probably not, but you will definitely share a moment.

And because no good deed goes unrewarded, your performance will be open to the vagaries of customer review, a humiliation July does not shy from in the promotional video above.

Is this app for real?

Yes, especially if you live in LA, New York, or another culturally rich Somebody hotspot.

If you don’t—or if receiving a message delivered, in all likelihood, by a tech savvy hipster, makes your flesh crawl—you can still enjoy the film as a comment on our digital existence, as well as a reflection of July’s ongoing desire to connect.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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Download for Free 2.6 Million Images from Books Published Over Last 500 Years on Flickr

flickr archive globe

Thanks to Kalev Leetaru, a Yahoo! Fellow in Residence at Georgetown University, you can now head over to a new collection at Flickr and search through an archive of 2.6 million public domain images, all extracted from books, magazines and newspapers published over a 500 year period. Eventually this archive will grow to 14.6 million images.

This new Flickr archive accomplishes something quite important. While other projects (e.g., Google Books) have digitized books and focused on text — on printed words – this project concentrates on images. Leetaru told the BBC, “For all these years all the libraries have been digitizing their books, but they have been putting them up as PDFs or text searchable works.”  “They have been focusing on the books as a collection of words. This inverts that.”

flicker reo speedwagon

The Flickr project draws on 600 million pages that were originally scanned by the Internet Archive. And it uses special software to extract images from those pages, plus the text that surrounds the images. I arrived at the image above when I searched for “automobile.” The page associated with the image tells me that the image comes from an old edition of the iconic American newspaper, The Saturday Evening Post. A related link puts the image in context, allowing me to see that we’re dealing with a 1920 ad for an REO Speedwagon. Now you know the origin of the band’s name!

venice flickr

I should probably add a note about how to search through the archive, because it’s not entirely obvious. From the home page of the archive, you can do a keyword search. As you’re filling in the keyword, Flickr will autopopulate the box with the words “Internet Archive Book Images’ Photostream.” Make sure you click on those autopopulated words, or else your search results will include images from other parts of Flickr.

Or here’s an easier approach: simply go to this interior page and conduct a search. It should yield results from the book image archive, and nothing more.

In case you’re wondering, all images can be downloaded for free. They’re all public domain.

More information about the new Flickr project can be found at the Internet Archive.

In the relateds below, you can find other great image archives that recently went online.

flicker gall

via the BBC and Peter Kaufman

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