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Research Center Prints and Photographs Reading Room

Using the Reading Room

The Prints & Photographs Reading Room provides public access to the collections and services of the Prints & Photographs Division (P&P) and is open to patrons conducting research utilizing the Division's collections. Research visitors who come to the P&P Reading Room benefit from Division staff who provide assistance in understanding the Division's many different cataloging/finding systems and who oversee the safe use of the wide variety of materials which are served. You may learn more about using the Prints & Photographs Reading Room by viewing this video.

Researchers not making an in-person visit can also work with the Division’s staff by contacting us via A Librarian.

Reader Registration and Personal Belongings

The reading room is open to researchers age 16 and above with a valid Reader Identification Card. Researchers may bring pencils (no pens), loose sheets of paper (no notebooks or bound volumes), laptop computers, cameras, 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.


Appointments are not required for the Prints & Photographs Reading Room, but you may request a research appointment to ensure collection material is accessible during your visit at the Library. Arrangements must be made when patrons expect to view more than 15 original items from the Division's collections of posters, drawings, master photographs, and fine prints (this does not include documentary photographs, the bulk of the Division's holdings); when requesting unprocessed material; when requesting fragile material requiring supervised handling or special preparation, such as many architectural drawings; for visits by a class or study group; or when the number of images required by a project will far exceed average use (e.g., searching thousands of images for digital publication). Patrons involved in complex research are encouraged to contact us through Ask a Librarian or call the Reading Room and discuss their search before making a visit.

Tours and orientations (including virtual orientations) are available. See our Tours & Orientations page .

Requesting Materials

The Prints & Photographs Reading Room does not use the "Request This Item" button in the Library of Congress catalog. Materials located on site can be requested by call slip. Materials stored off site and unprocessed materials must be requested in advance. Pay special attention to the "Access Advisory" field in P&P records, and utilize this form for off-site and unprocessed items.

Materials designated "Served by appointment only" are those that require special handling. Staff arrange a time to serve the material and work one-on-one with the person requesting to view it. If the material has been digitized or another type of surrogate (substitute) copy exists, researchers should use the surrogate for reference access. Generally, staff can set up an appointment within a few days of receiving a request to view material, except in the case of architectural drawings, where service time varies with the amount and size of the material requested.

If you are in the reading room and encounter material designated "Served by appointment only," please speak with a reference staff member about arranging service. If you are not in the reading room, please contact the reference staff via Ask a Librarian.

Photography Policies

Researchers are welcome to take photographs of collection material using a phone or camera provided any flash is turned off. Tripods, weights, cardboard, and lights (including flash) are not permitted. Reference librarians will evaluate the status of any material and determine if it can be photographed. Digitized materials can be downloaded at the Library of Congress. New scans can be ordered through Duplication Services.

Please be aware that not everything is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for determining the rights status of anything you intend to publish or distribute.


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.