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American Women: Resources from the Moving Image Collections

Using the Moving Image Collections

The primary tools for identifying materials in Motion Picture collections include the Library's online catalog, several print catalogs, finding aids, and online research guides.

Online Catalogs

Library of Congress Online Catalog

This catalog contains 17 million catalog records for books, serials, manuscripts, maps, music, recordings, images, and electronic resources in the Library of Congress collections.


MAVIS is a database that is currently only available in the Moving Image Research Center. This database contains specialized inventory and tracking records for certain of the division's nitrate, safety, video, and paper holdings. Only items that have been preserved as safety reference prints or video viewing copies can be screened.

Print Catalogs

The division's published collection catalogs are fully available on the Hathi Trust Digital Library:

Finding Aids

Finding Aids have been created by the division's reference staff to assist researchers in locating items on various popular topics. Finding aids related to women and film are available below, as well as finding aids to our television commercial collections.

For a list of all of the Finding Aids available online, see:

Online Research Guides on Women's Suffrage and Television Commercials are in production and will be linked from this page when they are available.

Research Methodology

More than 80 percent of the films made before 1930 are no longer extant, but the silent-film researcher can improve the odds of locating surviving films by compiling as comprehensive a filmography as possible from secondary sources.


The division's monograph collections are often the best starting point for research, especially for the scholar without a film history background. For a list of books related to women in/and film, see the Additional Resources section of this Guide.

Reference books, such as the American Film Institute catalog series (see the Additional Resources section in this Guide), provide subject indexing to fiction films that is often lacking in the MBRS catalogs.

Copyright Descriptors and Trade Publications

Studio saunterings--Madame Blaché rehearsing cast in 'Fra Diavolo'. [1915]. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

In many cases, paper sources may be the only surviving artifacts of a motion picture. The often invaluable copyright descriptions offer a unique source of documentation on moving images from 1912 to the present. At the start of the twentieth century, motion picture trade publications provided reviews, synopses, advertisements, and still images, including coverage of films not copyrighted. For example, Moving Picture World gives the following description of When Women Vote (1907): "The henpecked husband shines her shoes, brushes her coat, and out she goes to attend the woman's suffrage meeting. . . . Mr. O'Brien would like to get a divorce but such cannot be obtained when women vote."1 An advertisement for Fighting Suffragettes (1909) states, "Just the right picture to show in these stirring times, as it shows the woman how much better it is to stay at home. Teach your audience this lesson."2

The Moving Image Research Center has an excellent collection of trade magazines, including Moving Picture World (1907-27), the Motion Picture News (1911-30), and Motography (1911-18). Indexing is limited for these periodicals, but partial access can be found through such sources as the American Film Institute catalogs, An Index to Short and Feature Film Reviews in the Moving Picture World: The Early Years, 1907-1915 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995), and The Film Index: A Bibliography (New York: Arno Press, 1966). The most rewarding finds may result from simply browsing through the trade journals one page at a time.

Many of these trade magazines are also available through the Media History Digital Library (see the Additional Resources section of this Guide).

Catalogs and Filmographies

The survival rate for films produced after 1930 is much higher, but the strategy of using secondary sources to create title lists is much the same as for the silent era. The American Film Institute catalogs continue to provide subject indexing to the feature films of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1960s. There are dozens of filmographies dealing with a wide range of subjects, including the depiction in film of ethnic groups (see Contemporary Hollywood's Negative Hispanic Image: An Interpretive Filmography, 1956-1993, by Alfred Charles Richard [Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994]); character types (see Prostitution in Hollywood Films, by James Robert, Parish [Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1992]); and women (see Working Women on the Hollywood Screen: A Filmography by Carolyn L. Galerstein [New York: Garland Publishing, 1989]).

The research center also provides access to motion picture databases and websites, including the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) database of surviving American silent films.


  1. Moving Picture World, June 22, 1907 (PN1993.M88), 252. Back to text
  2. Moving Picture World, November 20, 1909 (PN1993.M88), 744. Back to text