With the stated mission of providing “universal access to all knowledge,” the Internet Archive is one of history’s most ambitious cataloging projects. So far millions of books, movies, television, music, software, and video games have been collected and digitized by the project, and that’s not counting the billions of websites they’ve been archiving over the past two decades with the Wayback Machine.
Fitting of such an ambitious project, the archive’s brick-and-mortar headquarters are also quite grand. The old Christian Scientist church in San Francisco’s Richmond district was chosen largely because the church’s front resembled the Internet Archive’s logo: the Library of Alexandria’s Greek columns. Inside the beautiful building you’ll find dozens of employees and volunteers digitizing everything from old home movies, to old LPs, to 8-bit video games.
Inside the church’s main room, with its still-intact pews, there are more than 120 ceramic sculptures of the Internet Archive’s current and former employees, created by artist Nuala Creed and inspired by the statues of the Xian warriors in China. Among the figures is internet pioneer Ted Nelson, the late genius hacktivist Aaron Swartz, as well as Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle. Also found in this room are some clever art projects, such as a “zip line” (a zip disk on a fishing line), by the organization’s artist-in-residence, as well as some of the archive’s massive servers, which also serve as the building’s heaters.
Know Before You Go
Free tours are given every Friday at 1pm. 300 Funston Ave., San Francisco.