Depends very much on how much of the content of the Library of Alexandria was content we don’t now have from elsewhere. I’ve heard conflicting claims on this. The destruction is so heavily mythologized in popular culture.
If we have 70% of the content from elsewhere I would probably restore the silent films. While I’m sure a lot of them are not that good (the same can be said for today’s films), I think they’d at least have niche of silent film fans that would be very interested and gain entertainment out of them.
We’re unlikely to get any actual scientific advances out of the Library, and so the content becomes valuable for understanding the past. And silent movies can help people with that, too, in a few centuries. Albeit we have far more recorded material (books, etc.) of the early 20th century.
The silent movies probably have a lot more content, even just by count of titles, without even getting into the question of information content of a movie vs. text on paper.
But most of the good movies from that era have been preserved, or at least remembered, and records still exist even of the ones that aren’t particularly remembered. The Library, though, is full of unknown unknowns: We don’t even know what it is we’d learn from it. That’s exciting.
Of course, most likely, we wouldn’t get anything from it, because there’s no technology that’s known to two other civilizations that we lack, and then it’d promptly go obsolete again because we already have Education.
Screw technology. I want all of Homer back! Just think of the lost plays, poems, essays and random scribblings that went missing. The cultural treasure is what I want, not the noodlings of a bunch of film students.
The library, no question. We know a lot more about the state of human knowledge, characters, and literature during the silent movie era than we do about ancient history. The linguistic knowledge alone would be worth it.
I love old movies as much as the next guy, but come on.
Well, this was my question to myself. And I knew that as a history lover, my answer should of course be the Library at Alexandria.
But I also felt that I would enjoy seeing the old movies more than reading the no doubt dense, stodgy, and unentertaining reams of old scroll scribblings, discovery rich and enlightening of old forgotten societies though they would be.
Imagine seeing the whole of Emil Jannings in The Way of All Flesh, or Theda Bara as Cleopatra or Lon Chaney in London After Midnight? Or some Our Gang Comedies or Marx Brothers efforts that are gone.
I guess I would still choose the Library because that seems like the right thing to do, but I wouldn’t really like doing it.
Now, maybe if the Genie would also throw in the Dumont TV Network Library and the missing Doctor Who episodes, I might just choose the silent movies option.