This overview of the Library's collections deals with the holdings of the Library in television. Motion pictures are covered separately. There is by necessity a certain overlapping here, since our television broadcasts are preserved on motion picture film. However, since we regard broadcasting as fundamentally different from motion pictures, we have chosen to treat broadcasted material as a separate category.
The collections of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division include approximately 80,000 television programs. Television programs have been acquired by the Library of Congress since 1949, primarily via copyright deposit. Copyright technicalities have led to an emphasis on the registration of primetime entertainment series, as opposed to such programs as musical variety specials, talk shows or game shows. Approximately 14,000 of these programs are listed in a recently published guide, Three Decades of Television; a catalog of television programs acquired by the Library of Congress 1949-1979, prepared by Sarah Rouse and Katherine Loughney.
The vast majority of the programs listed in Three Decades of Television have been received as copyright deposits. Primetime series predominate in the catalog. Also documented is the lack of copyrighted television material in the early years; only 13 selections from copyright registrations were made in 1950, compared with over 3,000 in 1980.
The Library also received televised material by gift, including two major series: Meet the Press and the Original Amateur Hour. Meet the Press television and radio materials have been donated by Lawrence E. Spivak, producer of the long-running program (first broadcast on radio in 1945). Television programs (1949-present) exist mostly in 16mm kineScope negative and print, with videotape formats beginning in May, 1974 (new programs continue to be received). The Original Amateur Hour (550 kineScopes, 16mm, November, 1948 through 1968), a long-running radio and television series hosted by Ted Mack, was donated to the LC in 1970 by Lloyd Marx. There are only eight pre-1951 programs.
The Library is also the beneficiary off-air taping. Because it has received permission to tape programs that appear on WETA, the Library has most of the best programming from public television for the past ten years. In addition, it has a very interesting series of Russian news programs, described in more detail below.
The research strength of the Library's television collection is the size and Scope of its holdings of American television, which are the largest in the nation. The strength of the collection lies in its generality, because the collection can be used for all sorts of research.
It should also be pointed out that Title 17, Chapter 9, Sec. 113 of the Copyright Law mandates the Librarian to establish and maintain an American Television and Radio Archive, and to preserve television and radio programs ..." which are of present or potential public or cultural interest, historical significance, cognitive value, or otherwise worthy of preservation...." No other archive has a governmental directive to collect, and to collect as broadly, as the Library.
NBC Television Collection: The NBC Television Collection was acquired by the Library in July 1986. It is not listed in Three Decades of Television and access to the collection is restricted. It is an historic collection of 18,000 television programs broadcast, preserved and for the most part produced by NBC. With programs dating from the beginning of television in the United States, 1948 through 1977, the NBC Television Collection includes not only performances by major actors and musical talents, but numerous events featuring significant individuals in public affairs. This acquisition significantly increases M/B/RS's holdings of television programs from the late 1940's and early 1950's and includes genres such as sports, game shows, childrens' programs and daytime television. The NBC Collection does not include NBC's news archives nor any post-1977 material.
NET Collection: NET (National Educational Television) programs held by the Library total over 10,000 titles and date from 1955-69. NET metamorphosed into PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) in 1969, and a few PBS programs from the early 1970's are included in this group of NET programs.
Hubert Chain Collection. A collection of very early television kineScopes from 1947, and including Angel Street (Walter Abel and Betty Field, 1/25/1948), Tex McCrary and Jinx Falkenburg Swift Show (10/31/47), Maria Tallchief dancing Swan Lake, Truman's first appearance on television, Cyril Ritchard, Judith Anderson and any others.
The United States Naval Academy Collection of Soviet and Russian Television in the Library of Congress. Since the early 1980's the U.S. Navy has been taping and analyzing Russian television news programs, and the tapes have been stored at the Library, giving us virtually the complete history of Glasnost and the dissolution of the Soviet empire. There is a finding aid to the collection in the MBRS reference room.
The Vanderbilt Television News Archive Collection. Since the mid-1970's Vanderbilt University has been taping both regular and special news programs, and then publishing indices to the news (also in our reference reading rooms). Since many of these programs are not available through Copyright deposit, we have been ordering them.
Because of the copyright law, the Library is very strong in American commercial television. In addition, the NET deposits have strengthened our non-commercial American holdings. However, with the exception of the United States Naval Academy Collection, holdings of foreign television is very weak. The emphasis on American television is in accordance with FIAT (International Federation of Television Archives) guidelines.