June 4, 2002 Library of Congress Publishes Guide to Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, Recorded Sound Collections

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022

The Library of Congress has recently published Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, Recorded Sound: An Illustrated Guide. The guide surveys the vast collections of the Library's Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division (M/B/RS) through a chronological narrative of technological, business, and artistic developments in various audiovisual industries.

"The rich collections of the Library of Congress Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division document the past 100 years, the first century to be recorded by sound and moving images," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "The Library recognizes its enormous responsibility to preserve and maintain these audiovisual collections in usable condition for future generations."

More than 100 years ago, Washington, D.C., was at the center of the nascent motion picture and sound recording industries. With the placement of the U.S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress in 1870, the Library became the national repository of materials deposited for copyright protection. These included the work of many local inventors who sought to discover ways to transform sounds and images into reproducible material forms. Their work formed the nucleus for the Library's unparalleled audiovisual collections.

The Library's recorded sound collections date back to the turn of the century, when Emile Berliner, creator of the microphone, flat recording discs, and the gramophone, located his laboratory just one mile from the Library of Congress. The Library subsequently acquired the Berliner Collection of several hundred early discs featuring music and spoken word recordings.

The Library's motion picture collection began in the 1890s, when producers of early films deposited still images developed on paper prints to register their product for copyright protection. Today, M/B/RS's Paper Print Collection constitutes the world's largest and most comprehensive source of American movies from the early silent era. The Library's diverse silent film holdings range from the work of legendary film star Mary Pickford to the presidential activities of Theodore Roosevelt, which were extensively recorded on film.

In addition to chronicling historical events during the war years, the Library's collection of radio and television broadcasts mirrors early technological developments in these industries. Franklin Roosevelt's "fireside chats" are preserved in the Library, along with the Mary Margaret McBride Collection, which features more than 1,000 hours of McBride's weekday talk shows, a pioneering mixture of interviews, advice, and product plugging that attracted an average of six million listeners daily. More than 100,000 radio and television soundtracks dating from 1935 to 1971 comprise the Library's NBC Collection -- the most comprehensive publicly available broadcasting archives in the United States. The Library's collections also house NBC's entire kinescope inventory -- more than 18,000 items from 1948 to 1970, including thousands of hours of broadcast journalism covering political and social life of the past half century.

The Library's leadership role in preserving its vast audiovisual holdings is also described in the new illustrated guide. The Library's establishment of a recording laboratory in 1940 and a motion picture repository during World War II not only captured the nation's cultural traditions, but also documented this seminal period in American history. The Library's collection of Armed Forces Radio Service 16-inch transcription discs complements its Office of War Information Collection, which includes much American network radio broadcasting that is not known to have survived elsewhere.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Library remains firmly committed to preserving for posterity the rich audiovisual heritage of the past. In May 2000, the Library opened the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment to honor the comedian on his 97th birthday and to preserve the work of the great popular American entertainers of the past century. In addition to the Bob Hope Collection, the gallery features highlights from such important collections as the Gwen Verdon-Bob Fosse Collection and the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Collection. At present, the Library of Congress is building the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Va., where a state-of-the-art archival environment will provide storage for the Library's audiovisual collections and house preservation and cataloging functions of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.

Made possible by support from the James Madison Council, a national, private-sector advisory council dedicated to helping the Library of Congress share its unique resources with the nation and the world, the illustrated guides to the Library's collections feature materials in various formats. They include guides to the Library's collections of manuscripts; prints and photographs; rare books; maps; music, theater and dance; Hispanic and Portuguese, European, African and Middle Eastern, and Asian materials.

Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, Recorded Sound: An Illustrated Guide -- an 88-page softcover book with 109 illustrations -- is available for $18 from the Library of Congress Sales Shop (credit card orders 888-682-3557) and from the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 152-7954 (cite stock number 030-001-00162-8).


PR 02-046
ISSN 0731-3527