Where to Find Archival Footage: Our Top 7 Websites

Since we recently put together a stock footage glossary to clear up the differences and similarities between archival, historical and stock footage, we thought it only fair that we give you some of our favourite footage archives, for when you really need the genuine article.

Of course, because we’re Videvo and love free stuff, we’ve included some freebies in our list! So, in no particular order, here they are…


1. Pond 5: The Public Domain Project

The great thing about archived historical footage is that loads of it falls into the public domain! Pond 5 have kindly compiled a huge library of videos that fall under this category. And it’s not just footage! They also have a great collection of images, audio files and 3D Models. And, best of all, it’s all free! All you have to do is sign up for a free account and get downloading.

Requirements: Free, Account required.

2. The US National Archive

With a name like the National Archives, you can safely assume that there is an almost infinite range of items at your disposal. The catalog spans documents, films, and records created by and for the US Federal government thought worth preserving. Such a large collection, of course, means it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for, but luckily the website comes equipped with an unparalleled advanced search function to narrow things down. Just remember to select ‘archival materials online’ and ‘Moving Images’ when you take the plunge!

It’s worth remembering that many other governments have their own national archive projects, so do make sure to check if other countries’ archives have what you are looking for.

Requirements: Free.

3. Internet Archive

Similar to national archive projects, Archive.org is a digital library of websites and other cultural artefacts, collated with the aim of making these resources readily available to the public. As a result, it has over 4.4 million videos, including films and editorial footage from all over the world. Archive.org is also the the home of the Prelinger Archives, of which 65% of the videos are in the public domain.

Requirements: Free, Account needed to view some items.

4. The Public Domain Review

The Public Domain Review is an online journal, dedicated to showcasing public-domain resources and related articles. As a journal, it makes a nice change if sifting through enormous archives isn’t for you. Instead, The Public Domain Review offers a streamlined collection of the best and most interesting films, images, books, and audio files. Features like ‘The Curator’s Choice’ make it a great source for finding something offbeat or unusual to set your project apart from the crowd.

Requirements: Free, videos hosted by external sites, often the Internet Archive (See above).

5. British Pathé and Reuters

British Pathé hosts a collection of archived footage of major events, fashion trends, famous faces and more. It also represents the news agency Reuters, and their 120, 000+ historical news clips. Though licensing the footage is not free, licenses are priced according to the manner in which you want to use a clip, which opens up a range of options. One of the most useful features of their website is their ‘Archive Picks’, a selection of clips which they believe will be useful for contextualising current events, illustrating trending topics, or which are relevant to important anniversaries.

Requirements: Pricing for licensing videos depends on the platform, territory, and clip. Bespoke licensing quotes are available, and certain licensing options are sold online. A subscription service is offered for UK Schools.

6. Getty Images: Editorial and Archival Videos

Getty Images’ editorial video archive redefines ‘historical footage’. Many of the clips are, in fact, contemporary, or filmed in the recent past. The collection therefore is particularly great for documenting history as it happens! They also have a pretty nifty “On This Day” feature and an Archival Calendar, making the browsing experience that little bit more fun and relevant. Getty is also in partnership with the BBC, so plenty of BBC archive footage is available for purchase as well!

Requirements: Licensing prices are calculated according to types of use for Advertising, Corporate or Media purposes.

7. Wikimedia Commons

This wouldn’t be an article about the best places to locate public domain archived footage without mentioning Wikimedia Commons. As a media file repository available in every language, and free to use, it is an invaluable resource. Wikimedia Commons crowdsources its content on a massive scale, providing detailed licensing information for videos and more. The collection can be sorted by camera style, technique, content, century, source, and every other imaginable category, making it easy to find the right video for your project.

Requirements: Free to use and download, just be sure to check the licenses for each file!

There you have it: our top seven resources for archived footage, whether historical, contemporary, creative, or even just a bit weird. Bear in mind that government funded organisations often place their footage in the public domain, so do also check out resources such as NASA and the National Park Service, among others. And do let us know if you think something isn’t on this list that really should be!

If you enjoy keeping a collection of archival footage (or have a personal creative portfolio), and are looking for a way of organizing it, you can try using an asset-organizing tool like Eagle App. It helps you create a library of digital materials, media, and creative inspiration, which you can easily organize and browse. There are a few services out there, but Eagle uses a great filter, category, and colour-categorization and filter interface, and supports 90+ formats including including video, audio, 3d objects, images, fonts, RAW files. You will love seeing your archival footage collection organized in an archive-like manner, and if you are a video editor, you can store and add assets directly into film editing software like Premiere Pro or Movie Maker. Below is an idea of how your archival footage could look like in an asset-organizing tool (via EagleApp’s user “RolandoBarry”):