I interrupt my regularly scheduled posting to bring you this tragic announcement:
Today, I discovered something which seems to have passed unnoticed by the Classic Film community. I tried to visit a page on the site “The Silent Era” which has been my go-to for reliable information about the early years of film. I found the following message:
“Silent Era has discontinued publication. Thank you for your readership and support.”
This is a major catastrophe for everyone interested in film history. The Silent Era had been the best curated site for silent film information, details of home video releases, and maintaining a living list of “Top 100+” silent films. To me, it was indispensable, and now it is gone. None of the links are live, and attempts to visit the sub-pages result in an Error 404. I can still access the old information by way of the Wayback Machine on archive.org (this is why I am an archive.org donor!), but it isn’t going to be maintained and updated. I do hope that some way will be found to archive the site fully and sustain it for historical purposes, but for now, all we have is this very sad word of adieu.
Soapbox moment: This is why it is important to establish sustainable models for funding and maintaining our cultural heritage on the Internet. Far too much of this sort of thing is being done on a private or “hobby” basis, and without public support, any part of it can disappear without warning. The Library of Congress should be running a site at least as good if not better than The Silent Era, in line with its mission to “ensure long-term, uninterrupted access to the intellectual content” of our nation. We need one for global film preservation and access as well. It’s time to get serious about digital preservation, curation, and access, and this is why!
Beyond that I’d just like to say a word of thanks to Carl Bennett and all of the writers who did contribute their time and expertise to The Silent Era. The Silent Era is over, let’s hope that what comes next is just as good.