Rick Prelinger

A decade later, the Internet Archive chronicles 9/11


In a couple of weeks, the world will reach a milestone: the passing of a decade since the September 11, 2001, attacks that hit New York and Washington, left thousands dead and sparked war around the globe. In advance of that sad anniversary, on Wednesday, San Francisco’s Internet Archive — the nonprofit preservation project run by online pioneer Brewster Kahle — is launching a website that captures the events for posterity.

The Understanding 9/11 site — which features a library of footage taken from a broad range of TV news channels on and after September 11, 2001 — is what the organization calls “a resource for scholars, journalists, and the public.” It’s a comprehensive archive of material, much of it available online for the first time.

What the Internet Archive has achieved is astounding. There are more than 3,000 hours of footage taken from news stations in America and around the world, covering the morning of the attacks and the subsequent week. That includes not only CNN and CBS, CNN, NBC, ABC and Fox but also stations from the UK, Mexico, Iraq, China and beyond.

The site has also compiled a list of analysis pieces that examine the coverage and the events and a video summary of the key moments during the day.

It’s a huge volume of information, but the size isn’t overwhelming; the material is presented in an easy-to-navigate visual style, with each block of programming cut into 10-minute and then 30-second chunks. It makes it easy to sift through to see what actually happened and when.