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Research Center Prints and Photographs Reading Room

About this Reading Room

The Prints & Photographs Reading Room is your access point to many of the Library’s visual collections. Some collections are online and others await your in-person visit. Unique in their scope and richness, the picture collections number more than 17 million images. These include photographs, historical prints, posters, cartoons, documentary drawings, fine prints, and architectural and engineering designs. While international in scope, the collections are particularly strong in materials documenting the history of the United States and the lives, interests, and achievements of the American people.

The Prints and Photographs Division (P&P), formally established in 1897 as the Department of Graphic Arts, was founded upon a rich reserve of prints, drawings, and photographs assembled in the 19th century through gift, purchase, and transfer from other government agencies. Its core of early American holdings, in fact, consisted of the original, copyrighted prints and photographs transferred from the U.S. District Courts and (later) the Copyright Office.

Early conceived as a department devoted to the fine arts, P&P has come to assume a leading role in the visual documentation of politics, society, and daily culture as well. Today its collections form the most comprehensive pictorial record of the history of the U.S., the lives, concerns, and achievements of its people, and of its place in the larger world.

Images in P&P support the vast range of scholarly resources in the Library, including the history of science, the arts and literature of all countries, as well as the geographically focused research collections in African and Latin American area studies and the cultures of Asia and the Middle East.


Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
James Madison Building, LM 337
Washington, DC 20540-4650
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Monday through Friday
8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Closed Saturdays & Sundays & Federal Holidays

Reader Registration (Rm. LM 133)
Monday through Saturday
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.