By: Mary Fran Bontempo


That’s not a word used frequently regarding education, entertainment, or, well, much of anything these days.

But on the website, Open Culture, it’s all free. Yep, all of it, from online classes and lectures, to movies, books, educational worksheets, web resources listed by subject matter, and on and on.

I stumbled across Open Culture recently, but the site was founded in 2006. Lead editor, Dan Colman, is the Director and Associate Dean of Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program, and he’s made it his mission to gather some of the most interesting and educational content available on the web and put access to it in one convenient, intellectually rich place–Open Culture.

Lots of other really smart folks are behind the action at Open Culture, too, whether it’s by way of contributing original content or making sure all the techie stuff delivers as promised. It adds up to one smart site that can help you get a little smarter, too.

The site offers access to free language lessons (free initially but with a price for more advanced offerings)–the thing that first attracted me as I’m determined to learn Italian that goes beyond “Ciao!” I’ve just started the free lessons, but I already know how to say “apple” (mela) and “How are you?” (Come sta?), so when I go to Italy, I can be polite and I won’t starve.

There are free art books and images as well as other textbooks available, and free lectures from the likes of Carl Sagan, authors Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood and master conductor and musician Leonard Bernstein.

If it’s movies you’re after, the site explains its over 675 offerings better than I could: “The Free Movies collection is divided into the following categories: Comedy & Drama; Film Noir, Horror & Hitchcock; Westerns (many with John Wayne); Silent Films; Documentaries, and Animation. We also have special collections of Oscar Winning Movies and Films by Andrei Tarkovsky and Charlie Chaplin.” If it’s a classic you’re after, you can probably find it on Open Culture.

Now that the weather’s finally breaking, by all means, get out and enjoy the sunshine. But when you feel the need for a little intellectual stimulation, or if you just want to learn how to say, “apple” in Arabic or Chinese, head over to Open Culture, and get a little smarter–for free!