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"Religion," mural in the North Corridor, Library of Congress Jefferson Building, by Charles Sprague Pearce, 1897.

Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Reading Room

Address: 101 Independence Avenue SE
James Madison Building, Room LM339
Washington, DC 20540-4733
Telephone Number: (202) 707-6394
Fax Number: (202) 707-6647
Contact Persons: Call the Reading Room for reference assistance
Internet Catalog Address: (LC online catalog); (partial catalog of prints and photographs)

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Monday--Friday 8:30 a.m.--5:00 p.m.
Weekends/Federal Holidays Closed
Open to the public: Yes
Photocopying:: Yes
Interlibrary loan: No

The primary mission of the Library of Congress is to serve Members of Congress and thereafter, the needs of the government, other libraries, and members of the public, universities, and learned societies.

A Library of Congress Reader Registration card is required to use the Prints and Photographs Reading Room. To obtain a registration card, applicants must be 18 years of age or older, and present photo identification bearing a verifiable permanent address. The cards are issued without charge in Room G40 of the Jefferson Building. Enter on the Second Street side of the building to locate this room.

Personal belongings are not permitted in the Reading Room (lockers are available in the Reading Room foyer) and patrons must agree to follow special rules for the safe handling of visual materials. Patrons planning to use laptop or notebook computers should bring battery packs, because there are few electrical outlets in the Reading Room. As a preservation measure, the Library serves "surrogates" (e.g., digital, videodisc, or microfilm images) in lieu of original images when such ready reference copies exist.

Photocopying can be done by researchers with coin or debit card. Photocopying depends on the condition, age, and size of items. The Library of Congress' Photoduplication Service can provide a wide range of reproductions of the Library's collections, such as single page photocopies, microfilms, or color slides. The ability of the Library to furnish reproductions is subject to copyright and other restrictions. Photoduplication Services is open 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. Further information on products and services can be obtained be contacting Photoduplication Services, Public Services Section, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540-4570. Telephone: (202) 707-5640. Fax: (202) 707-1771. TTY: (202) 855-855-1234. It takes from 4 to 6 weeks to get copies.

Photocopy machines are available in the Division's Reading Room but many images are too old or fragile to be photocopied. The staff does not provide receipts for costs incurred in making photocopies. Simple hand-held camera copying that does not require lights or other equipment or special handling of the images is allowed as an alternative to photocopying. Scanning equipment is not allowed.

Requests for specific images credited to the Library of Congress can be handled by mail when limited to fifteen or fewer items in the calendar year. Requests made by mail, e-mail, or FAX are answered in order of receipt. The average response time is about 4 weeks. Researchers should enclose a photocopy of the picture with information on the author, title, and date of the publication from which the image was copied and the page number on which it was found. If a photocopy cannot be provided, describe the picture as specifically as possible, including the subject, date, original medium, artist/photographer, and/or collection name.

Reference Policy:
The Division's collections are archival in nature and are made available chiefly for original research. The staff cannot conduct lengthy searches, make editorial selection of images, produce long lists of images, nor undertake extensive research projects. When these services are required, a list of freelance picture searchers in the Washington, D.C. area is supplied. Arrangements must be made when patrons expect to view more than 15 original items from the Division's collections of posters, drawings, master photographs, and fine prints (this does not include documentary photographs, the bulk of the Division's holdings), for classes or other study groups, and when the number of images required by a project will far exceed average use (e.g., searching thousands of images for digital publication). Some material is stored off-site, and some material is served only by appointment.
Borrowing Privileges:
Not a lending institution, with the exception of exhibitions.
OCLC, RLIN. Partial holdings listed on OCLC and RLIN.
Background Note:
The Prints and Photographs Division was formally established in 1897 as the Department of Graphic Arts. The core of the Library's early American holdings consisted of the original, copyrighted prints and photographs transferred from the United States District Courts and (later) the Copyright Office. The Prints and Photographs collections today number over 13.6 million images. These include photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. While international in scope, the collections are particularly rich in materials produced in, or documenting the history of, the United States and the lives, interests and achievements of the American people.
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Description of Collections

Paintings, photographs, slides, and prints:
Religion-related images are found throughout the collections; a complete inventory of these is not possible. The collections are particularly rich in 19th- and 20th-century photographs and architectural drawings of American church buildings in all states and representing all major Christian denominations.

Some relevant materials from major collections are listed below:

  • Architecture, Design, and Engineering Drawings Collection--hundreds of 19th- and 20th-century architectural drawings and sketches of churches and other religious structures from all over the world. The collection includes a large number of architectural drawings of churches in the Washington, D.C. area done by Arthur Heaton, Waddy B. Wood, Thomas Tileston Waterman, and others.
  • Arnold Genthe Collection--hundreds of photographs of churches and temples in Japan, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S., 1899-1942.
  • British Cartoon Collection--prints satirizing church-state relations in England in the 18th century.
  • Cabinet of American Illustration--numerous American drawings and illustrations from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including depictions of religious services, allegorical representations of religion, illustrations from works of fiction with religious themes, and drawings of churches and convents.
  • Caroline and Erwin Swann Collection of Caricature and Cartoon--various editorial cartoons on religious topics, including one satirizing relations between the French government and the Vatican in the early 1900s, and another on the Church's stand on birth control, 1975.
  • Detroit Publishing Company Collection--hundreds of photographs, 1880-1930, of churches and chapels of all major denominations from the United States, Canada, Cuba, and Mexico; religious services on United States naval vessels and military installations; Christian, Buddhist, and Aztec religious artifacts; Shaker communities; synagogues; and paintings with religious themes.
  • F. Holland Day Collection--numerous photographic figure studies with religious themes, 1895-1917, including stylized representations of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.
  • Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Color Slides and Transparencies Collection--hundreds of black-and-white photographs of church buildings, religious services and meetings (Catholic, Jewish, Baptist, Mormon, and other denominations), artifacts, Salvation Army work, itinerant preaching, revivals, ceremonies (baptisms, funerals, weddings, and others), hymn singing, and religious billboards and signs from across the United States, 1930s and 1940s.
  • Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection--numerous architectural photographs of churches in the U.S., and photographs of religious services, ca. 1890-1940.
  • French Political Cartoon Collection--caricatures and other images satirizing the state of religion in France from the Revolution through the Second Empire (1789-1870).
  • Gottscho-Schleisner Collection--hundreds of architectural photographs of churches, chapels, cathedrals, synagogues, seminaries, religious elementary and secondary schools, and parish buildings from many localities in the United States, but focusing on the New York metropolitan area, 1920-1970.
  • Historic American Buildings Survey--hundreds of measured drawings, photographs, and supplementary written records dating from 1933 describing American churches, cathedrals, chapels, synagogues, American Indian ceremonial caves, Quaker and Unitarian meeting houses, missions, parsonages, convents, monasteries, and other religious structures.
  • Look Magazine Photograph Collection--photographs taken for Look magazine during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, including photographs taken for a 1957 series of articles entitled "The Story of Religion in America" showing Methodists, Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists, Disciples of Christ, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Mormons, Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists, Christian Scientists, and Jews engaged in worship services, church- or synagogue-related social activities, religious instruction, meetings and assemblies, and other activities. The collection also contains photographs for a 1959 article on "California's Offbeat Religions" showing the activities of an isolated communal sect, the "W.K.F.L. Fountain of the World"; and portraits of prominent religious figures, such as Francis Cardinal Spellman (1957) and Laurian Cardinal Rugambwa of what is now Tanzania (1961), the first black African cardinal. The cataloging of this collection is ongoing; currently materials from 1956 to 1968 are processed.
  • Matson Photo Service Collection-- approximately 25,000 slides taken during the 1920s and 1930s of Palestine in general and Jerusalem in particular, including numerous images of religious sites and shrines.
  • New York World-Telegram and Sun Collection--photographs assembled by a New York newspaper, mainly from 1920 to 1967, and including a variety of religious subjects: camp meetings, Baha'i, the Church of God, the Church of the Brethren, the Doukhobors, Jehovah's Witnesses (about 90 photos), Mennonites, Satanic Church services, Seventh-day Adventists, and snake-handling cults. There are also photographs of prominent religious personalities, including Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, Billy Graham (157 photographs), Reinhold Niebuhr (six photographs), Oral Roberts, and Bishop Fulton Sheen. These materials are stored off site; turnaround time for retrieval of materials is 10 days.
  • Panoramic Photographs Collection--Numerous photographs of churches, Sunday school and Bible classes (including one sponsored by William Jennings Bryan, 1921), religious conventions (Lutheran, Methodist, Mormon, Seventh-day Adventist), revivals, Catholic masses, and religious services in the United States military, ca. 1902-1933.
  • Stereograph Collection--stereographs from the Keystone View Company with scenes of religious life from various places around the world, including a religious procession of children in Montreal from the 1910 International Eucharistic Congress; prayers at a Japanese shrine (1905); a religious procession in Moscow (1926); church buildings in Guatemala (1902), Nicaragua (1902), Germany (1920), the U.S. (Boston, 1924), and England (1926); Koran instruction in Egypt (1899); and Chinese ancestral tablets (1905).
  • Theodor Horydczak Collection--over 400 photographs of churches, cathedrals (with a particular emphasis on the National Cathedral), convents, rectories, mosques, religious schools, and religious articles (vestments, statuary, communion service, Bibles, and other religious books) from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, ca. 1920-1950.
  • U.S. News and World Report Magazine Photograph Collection--about 250 photographs of religious subjects, including church buildings, religious meetings and conferences, artifacts, and anti-war demonstrations, 1960s and 1970s (most of these images cannot be reproduced due to copyright restrictions).
  • World's Transportation Commission Photograph Collection--photographs taken by William Henry Jackson of Buddhist temples in Thailand and Indonesia; Hindu temples in India; Taoist temples in China; Orthodox churches in Russia; the ruins of ancient temples in Carthage, Egypt, and Cambodia (Angkor Wat); mosques in Egypt, Algeria, and India; and other religious structures, 1894-1896.

In addition, relevant materials may be found in subject, geographic, and biographical files in the reading room. Samples of such material are listed below:

  • Specific subject files (most under the subject headings "religion," "religious articles," and "religious groups" with various subheadings) of photographs of camp meetings, revivals, religious services, missions among American Indians, and pictures related to various denominations--Catholics, Latter-day Saints (listed in the subject file under "Mormons"), Eastern Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses, Schwenkfelders, and Doukhobors.
  • Specific subject files of illustrations (file nos. 4443 and 4445) from published works (including Bibles, Goethe's Faust, and Dante's Divine Comedy), depicting angels, Judgment Day, Jesus, Moses, saints, churches, the Crucifixion, witchcraft, and allegorical representations of religious themes.
  • Geographic files contain pictures of churches, cathedrals, mosques, and temples from around the world.

There is no one catalog or finding aid for the entire prints and photographs collection. Many of the more recent acquisitions are listed by title, subject, and artist in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog and the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Many of the collections have been partially or totally digitized (see below under "Databases, CD-ROMS, and other machine-readable resources"); these can be searched on computer (in the reading room, or remotely for collections available via the American Memory program) by artist, subject, title, or keyword. Many large collections have individual card files (e.g. U.S. News and World Report Magazine Photograph Collection) or other finding aids (e.g. name and subject index notebooks for the New York World-Telegram and Sun Collection; published indexes, card files, and a computer index for the Historic American Buildings Survey). Researchers should consult with reference staff for information on specific collections or subject research on specific types of images.

Databases, CD-ROMS, and other machine-readable sources:
Portions of the following collections are available on videodisc in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room: the Detroit Publishing Company Collection; the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection; the Architecture, Design, and Engineering Drawings Collection; the Cabinet of American Illustration; the Panoramic Photographs Collection; the Swann Collection of Caricature and Cartoon; the Theodor Horydczak Collection; and the World's Transportation Commission Photograph Collection

In addition, selected images from the following collections are available on the Internet as part of the Library's American Memory project: the Detroit Publishing Company Collection, the Horydczak Collection, the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection, and the World's Transportation Commission Collection.

Subject Headings

Angels; Baptists; Bible; Cathedrals; Catholic Church; Chapels; Christian sects; Church architecture; Church buildings; Church decoration and ornament; Church of God; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Church of the Brethren; Convents; Doukhobors; Episcopal Church; Graham, Billy, 1918- ; Holy Land; Indians of North America--Religion; Jehovah's Witnesses; Jesus Christ--Art; John XXIII, Pope (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli), 1881-1963; Judgment Day; Mennonites; Mission buildings; Missions and missionaries; Monasteries; Moses (Biblical leader); Moslems; Mosques; Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971; Paul VI, Pope (Giovanni Battista Montini), 1897-1978; Religion and state--France--1789-1870; Religion and state--Great Britain--18th century; Religious art; Religious articles; Religious education; Revivals; Ritual; Roberts, Oral, 1918- ; Rugambwa, Laurian, Cardinal, 1912- ; Russian Orthodox Church; Saints; Satanism; Schwenkfelders; Seminaries; Seventh-day Adventists; Shakers; Sheen, Fulton J., Bishop, 1895-1979; Snake handling; Spellman, Francis, Cardinal, 1889-1967; Sunday schools; Synagogues; Temples; Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975--Protest movements--Religious aspects; Washington National Cathedral


Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record. America Preserved: A Checklist of Historic Buildings, Structures, and Sites. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Cataloging Distribution Service, 1995.

Library of Congress. Special Collections in the Library of Congress: A Selective Guide. Annette Melville, comp. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1980.

Library of Congress. National Digital Library. American Memory. Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America: Photographs by Samuel Gottscho and William Schleisner, 1935-1955 [Online]. Available HTTP. URL Site accessed August 1996.

Library of Congress. National Digital Library. American Memory. Around the World in the 1890s: Photographs from the World's Transportation Commission, 1894-1896 [Online]. Available HTTP. URL Site accessed August 1996.

Library of Congress. National Digital Library. American Memory. Color Photographs from the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information, ca. 1938-1944 [Online]. Available HTTP. URL Site accessed August 1996.

Library of Congress. National Digital Library. American Memory. Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920 [Online]. Available HTTP. URL Site accessed August 1996.

Library of Congress. National Digital Library. American Memory. Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959 [Online]. Available HTTP. URL Site accessed August 1996.

Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division. Prints and Photographs Reading Room [Online]. Available HTTP. URL April 1997.

Library of Congress. Reference Department. Guide to the Special Collections of Prints and Photographs in the Library of Congress. Paul Vanderbilt, comp. Washington, DC: (n.p.), 1955.

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  June 22, 2017
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