By HELEN DALRYMPLE
The Library's recorded-sound and moving-image collections are the largest in the world, comprising approximately 6.4 million items (of which 5.7 million items will be stored at the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation). Included are more than 1 million items in the moving-image collections (theatrical films and newsreels, television programs, and educational, industrial and advertising material); nearly 3 million items in the audio collections (commercial sound recordings, radio broadcasts and early recordings of historic figures); and more than 2.2 million supporting documents (screenplays, manuscripts, photographs and press kits).
The following are some examples of the depth and breadth of the collections.
- 500 published and unpublished Berliner discs from the late 19th century, as well as laboratory notebooks and business and legal papers that detail the early history of Emile Berliner's Gramophone, a flat disc recording and playback system. The company evolved into the Victor Talking Machine Company.
- Paper prints of the earliest moving pictures, made when the only way to copyright films at the time was to print each frame onto paper stock and submit the paper rolls to the Copyright Office. Using five generations of changing technologies, the Library in conjunction with other institutions has rephotographed these paper prints onto safety film. Since Librarian Archibald MacLeish recommended this project in 1943, the project has recovered hundreds of hours of moving-image history from the dawn of the America cinema — lost movies that exist nowhere else.
- 40,000 discs and 500 cylinder recordings in the Walsh, Martindale and Moss collections covering the years between 1912 and 1929 (the Library holds hundreds of thousands of discs and nearly 30,000 cylinders).
- The Mary Pickford Collection, containing early (1909-1912) one-reel films that she made for the Biograph Company, as well as her later feature films.
- The NBC Collection, the most comprehensive publicly available broadcasting archive in the United States. It includes more than 100,000 radio programs and television soundtracks dating from 1935 to 1971 — recorded on 150,000 16-inch lacquer-coated transcription discs — as well as 18,000 kinescope reels of NBC television broadcasts (made by filming the picture from a TV monitor).
- 2,200 discs of recordings of Major Bowes' "Original Amateur Hour," from 1935 to 1945, which demonstrate the early talents of performers such as Frank Sinatra and Beverly Sills.
- "Race records" (published for the African-American market in the 1920s and 1930s that ultimately had a great influence on mainstream popular music), and "hillbilly" commercial records and recordings from other ethnic groups within the United States.
- Extensive collections of films received directly from the major American studios covering the era of nitrate film (which the Library did not collect until after World War II when it acquired storage vaults to hold the highly flammable film stock used by the studios).
- Captured World War II enemy audiovisual material from Germany, Italy and Japan, as well as seized enemy sound recordings.
- Transcription recordings of programming created by the Armed Forces Radio Service during World War II for American troops around the world. The service continues to operate, and the Armed Forces Radio Collection now comprises the largest archive of American commercial radio broadcasts in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.
- The nation's largest collection of public television material, which documents the development and growth of noncommercial television, and 25,000 tapes of National Public Radio's arts programs during the 1970s.
- Sound recordings deposited for copyright since copyright registration of sound recordings first went into effect in 1972; these include spoken-word recordings as well as musical recordings.