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Each year since 1989, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has named 25 films to the National Film Registry. There are now 350 films on the list, including the 1968 classic horror film "Night of the Living Dead." Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant motion pictures to the registry. The list is designed to reflect the full breadth and diversity of America's film heritage, thus increasing public awareness of the richness of American cinema and the need for its preservation. As Billington said, "Our film heritage is America's living past. It celebrates the creativity and inventiveness of diverse communities and our nation as a whole. By preserving American films, we safeguard a significant element of our cultural history."

Stills from "A Streetcar Named Desire"

For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress works to ensure that the film is preserved for all time, either through the Library's massive motion picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion picture studios and independent filmmakers. The Library of Congress contains the largest collections of film and television in the world, from the earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture to the latest feature releases.

Stills from "Night of the Living Dead"

According to Billington, "The films we choose are not necessarily either the 'best' American films ever made or the most famous. But they are films that continue to have cultural, historical or aesthetic significance -- and in many cases represent countless other films also deserving of recognition. The selection of a film, I stress, is not an endorsement of its ideology or content, but rather a recognition of the film's importance to American film and cultural history and to history in general."

Read about the new films just added to the registry [http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2002/02-176.html] and more about the National Film Registry and the National Film Preservation Foundation. You can also see the list of the 325 films currently on the Registry and make your own nominations to the Registry.

Learn what the Library of Congress and other institutions are doing to preserve America's film heritage by visiting the Moving Image Collections at the Library of Congress Web page.

The American Memory Web site contains films for viewing at American Memory Motion Picture Collections. The first film registered for U.S. Copyright, Thomas Edison's 1894 "Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze" is one of the many films available.

Stills from "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)(B), and "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951)(A), two of the 325 films on the National Film Registry. Reproduction information: Film stills, unavailable from the Library of Congress.

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