Using the Collections
The Library of Congress holds the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of audio-visual works, over 6.2 million moving images, sound recordings and related documents. The collections include:
- 1.2 million moving image collection items: theatrical films and newsreels, television programs, educational, industrial and advertising material.
- Nearly 3 million audio collection items: commercial sound recordings, radio broadcasts, and early voice recordings of historical figures.
- Over 2 million supporting documents, screenplays, manuscripts, photographs, posters, and press kits.
Recorded Sound Research Center
The Recorded Sound Reference Center provides access to the commercial and archival audio holdings of the Library of Congress. The collection dates from 1926 when Victor Records donated over 400 discs to the Library's Music Division to supplement its print and manuscript holdings. In the custody of the Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division since 1978, the collection has grown to include over 2 million items encompassing audio formats from cylinders to CDs.
Moving Images Research Center
The Library of Congress began collecting motion pictures in 1893 when Thomas Edison and his brilliant assistant W. K. L. Dickson deposited the Edison Kinetoscopic Records for copyright. However, because of the difficulty of safely storing the flammable nitrate film used at the time, the Library retained only the descriptive material relating to motion pictures. In 1942, recognizing the importance of motion pictures and the need to preserve them as a historical record, the Library began the collection of the films themselves. From 1949 on these also included films (and later video) made for television. Today the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (MBRS) has responsibility for the acquisition, cataloging and preservation of the motion picture and television collections. The Division operates the Motion Picture and Television Reading Room to provide access and information services to an international community of film and television professionals, archivists, scholars and researchers.