Media Burn Archive

Media Burn Archive collects, restores, and distributes videos created by artists, activists, and community groups. Our mission is to use archival media to deepen context and encourage critical thought through a social justice lens.

mediaburn_page_image.jpgThe videos in the Media Burn collection represent an alternative, more equitable portrait of the 20th century than that which is contained in mainstream media archives. The collection’s roots are in the “guerrilla television” movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when the technology of portable videotape mobilized new groups of mediamakers to tell their communities’ stories with cheap, easy-to-use video cameras. No longer shut out of film and television unions or burdened by expensive equipment no one would teach them how to use, ordinary people were empowered to tell their own stories.

The 8,000 videos in the collection cover many topics but share important qualities: they were created outside of corporate contexts; they teach us about the world and our common humanity; and they demonstrate artistry, skill, and creativity. Our full collection is available for free at Since the streaming video site's launch in 2006, more than 20 million people have watched our videos.

Our Chicago Collection is the cornerstone of our archive, spanning more than a half century of history and culture. Hundreds of subjects, including musicians, mayors, baseball legends, radio personalities, community leaders, and neighborhood festivals are captured for posterity. Local politics is a particular strength, featuring the lives and times of Alderman Vito Marzullo; Congressmen Rahm Emanuel and Dan Rostenkowski; Senators Barack Obama and Carol Moseley-Braun; Governors Jim Edgar, George Ryan, and Rod Blagojevich; Mayors Jane Byrne, Harold Washington, Eugene Sawyer, David Orr, and Richard J. and Richard M. Daley; and many more. It features activist leaders like Jesse Jackson, Father Michael Pfleger, Dovie Thurman, and Marion Stamps, as well as sports heroes like Bill Veeck, Ernie Banks, and Minnie Minoso. Studs Terkel is featured in more than 300 videos. The footage in this collection, produced by passionate independent observers, provides a rare and valuable counterpoint to the official histories of many of Chicago’s most noteworthy 20th century characters.

Our collections are online; visit us at Please email Media Burn staff with any research questions.