Top of page

Research Center Prints and Photographs Reading Room

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions

  1. How do I plan a visit to the Prints & Photographs Reading Room?
  2. Are all of the Prints & Photograph’s Division’s collections available online?
  3. I can’t visit the Library, can you still help me with my research?
  4. What is a finding aid?
  5. What resources are available in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room?
  6. Can the Library grant me permission to publish?
  7. Does the Prints & Photographs Division have a required form of citation?
  8. Are all prints and photographs at the Library of Congress held in the Prints & Photographs Division?
  9. What's the difference between the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division and the National Archives?
  10. How much is my picture worth?
  11. I want to give my print or photograph to the Prints & Photographs Division. Now what?
  12. How do I care for my own prints and photographs?
  13. I want to borrow an item from the Prints & Photographs Division for an exhibition. How do I do that?
  14. Can I hire someone to help with my research or downloading needs?

Answers

  1. How do I plan a visit to the Prints & Photographs Reading Room?

    The Prints & Photographs Reading Room is open Monday through Friday, 8:30am through 5pm. Appointments are not required, but researchers are encouraged to contact the Prints & Photographs Division in advance if they have any questions, or anticipate needing access to materials that are architectural drawings, stored off-site, or are unprocessed.

    Researchers may bring pencils (no pens), loose sheets of paper (no notebooks or bound volumes), laptop computers, cameras, phones, and USB flash drives. The Prints & Photographs Division provides lockers for the storage of any personal items. There is no charge for using the lockers.

  2. Are all of the Prints & Photograph’s Division’s collections available online?

    The Prints & Photographs Online Catalog describes about 95% of P&P holdings. Many of the records are accompanied by one or more digital images. In some collections, only thumbnail images display to those searching outside the Library of Congress because of potential rights considerations.

  3. I can’t visit the Library, can you still help me with my research?

    The Division's collections are archival in nature and are made available chiefly for original research. The staff cannot conduct lengthy searches, make editorial selection of images, produce long lists of images, undertake extensive research projects, or conduct appraisals. Requests for specific images credited to the Library of Congress can be handled when limited to ten or fewer items in the calendar year.

    The staff of the Prints & Photographs Reading Room encourages researchers who are unable to visit in person to contact us through Ask A Librarian. Reading room staff can help point patrons to online resources that may aid their research, can provide limited reference assistance, or can point them to Duplication Services or a list of independent researchers, who can conduct research on your behalf.

  4. What is a finding aid?

    A finding aid provides a detailed description of a collection by summarizing its arrangement and contents. Most Library of Congress online finding aids utilize Encoded Archival Description (EAD), enabling one to search multiple finding aids across divisions in a single search. Only select collections have an online finding aid, and those can be viewed here. This list is not a comprehensive reflection of all P&P collections.

  5. What resources are available in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room?

    The Prints & Photographs Reading Room provides paper, pencils, public computer terminals, and microfilm readers. Book cradles, book weights, magnifiers, a light box, and gloves are available at reading room staff’s discretion. For those interested in stereographs, the reading room has stereoscopes for researchers to use. The room is equipped with wireless internet access. A reference book collection, which provides standard reference sources as well as select secondary literature specific to our holdings, is located in the reading room.

    The Prints & Photographs Reading Room does not have overhead scanners, and we do not allow other equipment. Researchers wishing to make images of items in the collection must bring their own camera or cell phone.

  6. Can the Library grant me permission to publish?

    The Library of Congress, as a publicly supported institution, does not own rights to material in its collections. Therefore, it does not charge permission fees for use of such material and cannot give or deny permission to publish or otherwise distribute material in its collections.

    It is the user's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions (such as donor restrictions, privacy rights, publicity rights, licensing and trademarks) when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the Division's collections. We try to supply as much information as we have, but sometimes, key information is lacking, and ultimately you know how you plan to use the material and the level of risk with which you are comfortable.

  7. Does the Prints & Photographs Division have a required form of citation?

    The Library requests the courtesy of a credit when publishing items from the collections in order to assist researchers in locating the materials. For information about supplying credits, please see the suggested credit line at the end of the relevant rights statement. Additional information on crediting is available at: http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/195_copr.html#question4.

  8. Are all prints and photographs at the Library of Congress held in the Prints & Photographs Division?

    The Prints & Photographs Division is the custodian of 17 million prints and photographs in the Library’s collection, but visual materials can be found in other divisions of the Library, as well, particularly in the Manuscripts Division, the American Folklife Center, Rare Books and Special Collections, and Performing Arts. All of the Library’s visual material can be searched in the P&P online catalog, and catalog records will tell you what division cares for the item in the “part of” section of the catalog record.

  9. What's the difference between the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division and the National Archives?

    The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division holds visual materials significant to American history. The National Archives and Records Administration is the official repository for United States government records.

  10. How much is my picture worth?

    The Library of Congress does not appraise photographs, prints, or other materials. Judgments on the genuineness or authenticity of a work of art are reliable only when based on a first-hand examination of the work. The advice of creditable dealers, appraisers, or curators of local historical societies or museums should be sought in these matters.

    Resources include:

  11. How do I care for my own photographs, prints, and drawings?

    The Library’s preservation specialists have prepared guidance for many types of material, supply options, and storage and handling practices.

    See https://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/

  12. How do I borrow an item from the Prints & Photographs Division for an exhibition?

    Public institutions can ask to borrow visual materials for use in exhibitions. The exhibition loan requirements are spelled out at https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/loan/

  13. Can I hire someone to help with my research or downloading needs?

    The following individuals have expressed that they are available to perform on-site picture research for a fee. The Library does not endorse or vet these searchers, but provides their names and addresses as an aid to picture research. This list was last updated in May 2024.

    • ATHENA ANGELOS, 1211 Fairmont Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009 (202) 412-5969 athenakangelos@gmail.com
    • IRENE BARRIOS, Pintado, Mexico / Italy (917) 679-7665 i.b.p@mac.com
    • MIKE CONSTANDY, Box 320488, Alexandria, VA, 22320 Westmoreland Research (202) 421-5151 cell mjc@westmorelandresearch.org
    • MARTHA DAVIDSON, 2520 41st St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007 (202) 380 6765 cell mdwdc@sprintmail.com
    • SATU HAASE-WEBB, Washington, D.C. 20003 (202) 257-6915 satuhw@yahoo.com
    • ELISABETH M. HARTJENS, 6101 Utah Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20015 (202) 362-4328 hartjens@erols.com or hartjens@rcn.com
    • SUSAN HORMUTH, 3356 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C. 20020 (202) 584-3994 susanhormuth@verizon.net
    • MARGARET JOHNSON, 3200 Garfield St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008 (202) 669-7479 mmj@erols.com
    • TYLER LOVELESS, Washington, D.C. (202) 441-9222 edit@tylerloveless.com
    • JOAN M. MATHYS, MJM Picture & Film Research, Washington, D.C. (202) 537-3256 joanmathys@msn.com
    • KEVIN MORROW, 1201 N Kensington St, Apt 4, Arlington, VA 22205 (703) 439-8789 morrow.kevin@gmail.com
    • BONNIE ROWAN, 1849 California St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009 (202) 265-1081; (202) 580-9933 browan@his.com
    • ERIKA A. SUSKI, M.S. (571) 606-4390 erika.suski@yahoo.com
    • BRIAN TAYLOR, Ph.D., 9718 Promise Court, Laurel, MD 20723 (302) 893-7432 briantaylor1006@gmail.com
    • ALLYSON TORRISI (917) 658-9810 allypix77@gmail.com

Location

Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
James Madison Building, LM 337
Washington, DC 20540-4650
View map External link

Hours

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.