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Program National Recording Preservation Plan

Major Audio Collections at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress holds the nation's largest public collection of sound recordings (music and spoken word) and radio broadcasts, some 3.5 million recordings in all. Recordings represent over 110 years of sound recording history in nearly every sound recording format and cover a wide range of subjects and genres in considerable depth and breadth.

The collection includes over 500,000 LPs; 450,000 78-rpm discs; over 500,000 unpublished discs; 200,000 compact discs; 175,000 tape reels; 150,000 45-rpm discs; and 75,000 cassettes. Among the unusual formats in the collection are wires, instantaneous discs, cylinders, music box discs, rolls, bands, dictabelts, and Memovox discs.

The collection includes most musical genres with particular strength in opera, chamber music, folk, jazz, musical theater, popular, and classical.

LC's collection contains more radio broadcasts (over .5 million) than any other library or archive in the United States. A sampling of prominent collections follows:

  • NBC Collection
    150,000 sixteen-inch lacquer discs from the 1930s-1980s, including tens of thousands of World War II-related broadcasts.
  • Universal Music Group
    200,000 master recordings featuring such luminaries as Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday
  • Tony Schwartz
    The career-spanning archives of the renowned New York City sound documentarian, producer, author and teacher.
  • Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS)
    300,000 twelve- and sixteen-inch discs from 1942-1998
  • Office of War Information (OWI)
    Over 50,000 instantaneous lacquer discs from 1942-1945
  • National Public Radio (NPR)
    The cultural programming portions of NPR broadcasts, 27,000 tapes from 1971-1992
  • Voice of America (VOA)
    Over 50,000 discs and tapes of musical event broadcasts dating from 1946-1988
  • WOR-AM Collection
    Flagship station of the Mutual Broadcasting Network located in New York City. Collection includes several thousand 16-inch instantaneous transcription discs, the paper archives of WOR, as well as an outstanding group of materials relating to the radio career of Phillips H. Lord.
  • Lowry/McBride Collection
    Recordings and written material covering Mary Margaret McBride's entire broadcasting career, 1937-1956.

 A selection of the significant specific collections follows:

  • Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature
    Several thousand recordings of notable authors reading their own works in the recording studios and Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress
  • Music Division Coolidge Auditorium Concert Series
    Chamber music recordings from the renowned Library of Congress concert series, beginning in 1937 and highlighted by the Library's resident ensembles: The Budapest String Quartet, The Juilliard String Quartet, and The Beaux Arts Trio
  • National Press Club Collection
    Noteworthy luncheon speeches and other events by newsmakers from the 1950s to the 1980s.
  • Emile Berliner Collection
    A selection of recordings representing the Berliner Gramophone Company and the work of Emile Berliner, who invented the Gramophone disc and the microphone, and founded the disc recording industry. The collection includes manuscripts, scrapbooks, and photographs relating to the career of Berliner, contributed by his descendants.
  • Jerry Valburn/Duke Ellington Collection
    A comprehensive collection of Duke Ellington recordings, including unpublished recordings as well as nearly every known commercial recording by band leader/composer.
  • Marine Corps Combat Recordings Field Recordings
    Made by World War II combat correspondents in the South Pacific including briefings before invasion, interviews, battle sounds, and personal messages from servicemen.
  • Peter Muldavin Children's Collection
    This collection of 78-rpm children's records is the largest of its kind in the world.
  • Nesuhi Ertegun/Jelly Roll Morton Collection
    Every recording of this early New Orleans-style jazz pianist and composer.
  • Robert Altshuler and Frederick Klinger Collections
    Two of the largest private collections of recordings received by the Library to date some 260,000 recordings (1917-1985) of most classic blues and jazz artists recorded during the 78 rpm and LP eras.
  • John Secrist Collection
    2,800 commercial classical music releases, primarily operatic, from 1902 to 1925. Nearly complete sets of commercial releases of Enrico Caruso and Rosa Ponselle, as well as acoustic recordings of Suzanne Adams, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, and Giovanni Zenatello
    Finding Aid
  • Joel Berger Collection
    Rare recordings of over forty Imperial Russian Opera singers
  • Sportscaster Bob Wolff Collection
    News Release
  • Sportscaster Al Wester Collection
    News Release
  • Pulse of the Planet-Jim Metzner Collection
    Finding Aid | Blog
  • “Firesign Theater” Collection
    Finding Aid | Blog

One of the world's foremost collections of jazz recordings, often with associated scores, manuscripts, photographs. Artists' collections include:

  • Pearl Bailey
  • Charlie Barnet
  • Louie Bellson
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Carmen McRae
  • Charles Mingus
  • Billy Taylor

Special collections which include the personal sound recordings of such musical greats as: