Unlocking the Public Domain

  • Sara Schumacher Texas Tech University
Keywords: public domain, Public Domain Day, copyright, Creative Commons, outreach, advocacy, information literacy


Public Domain Day, celebrated January 1st of every year, is a relatively new holiday, which has the potential to grow rapidly as 2019 marked the first year in 20 years in the United States that new works were added to the public domain. This article showcases Texas Tech University Libraries’ “Public Domain Day: 1923 Unlocked” exhibition and outreach efforts as one approach, but also highlights other intuitions’ promotions and suggests ways to connect to larger initiatives. Cultural heritage and visual resources professionals can adapt this celebration as a way of advocating for the public domain, educating on copyright literacy, bringing attention to newly public domain collections materials, and exciting and empowering the public. The growth of the public domain enriches many of our missions and goals including supporting creativity and preserving our past and should be celebrated and protected.

The author would like to acknowledge all the people that participated in and contributed to the “Public Domain Day: 1923 Unlocked” exhibition and events. Jessica Kirschner assisted in the creation of public domain, copyright and Creative Commons panels. Nora Hyman provided additional graphic design. Christopher Starcher, Diane Warner, Esther De-Leon, Heidi Winkler, Hillary Veeder, Ian Barba, Jack Becker, Joshua Salmans, Joy Perrin, Rob Weiner, Shelley Barba, and Tom Rohrig wrote panel texts for the exhibition.

Author Biography

Sara Schumacher, Texas Tech University

Sara Schumacher is the Architecture Image Librarian at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. She received her BA in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin (2005), MA in Art History from the University of Oregon (2007) and her MS in Information Studies from the University of Texas at Austin (2011). She is a member of the VRA Development Committee and the incoming Vice President for Conference Program (2019-2021).

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