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American Women: Resources from the Moving Image Collections

Viewing Procedures & Guidelines

US Army Signal Corps. Susan Baptist, a projectionist, shows training films for the troops. [1940s]. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The Library's Moving Image Research Center has special requirements for the use of its holdings. Please also read the section on "Using the Library of Congress" for basic information on using the Library which includes video tutorials.

Viewing Procedures and Guidelines

Appointments for viewing film prints and video copies should be made as far in advance as possible to guarantee that requests can be fulfilled, with a minimum of ten days advance notice. A six-week lead time will guarantee that all but the most irreparably damaged items can be made accessible. Less advance notice curtails staff time to inspect requested items and deliver them to the Research Center from off-site storage in Culpeper, Virginia.

Although advance notice is not needed for items that have been digitized, a reservation is recommended to guarantee equipment availability.  If an appointment needs to be canceled or rescheduled, please contact the reference staff as soon as possible.  Cancellation without sufficient notice can prevent others from having access to the facilities.

Viewing Requests

When submitting viewing requests, please provide the title, call number, and date of the item. Names associated with the item, such as director/creator or performers, are also helpful. Call numbers will be a combination of capital letters and numbers, and will vary depending on the format of the item and the collection it is in (e.g. VBG 3214; FCA 4414-4416).

Researchers can begin their search by using the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A variety of search strategies exist for navigating our collections, but please note that not all of our materials have been processed and are publicly searchable. For titles not found online, researchers may submit title lists to be searched by our reference staff. Please limit your request to no more than forty titles.

Please be aware that not all of the films in our collections are readily viewable through access or digital copies. When an access copy does not exist, researchers can contact a reference librarian (see information at left) to discuss the possibility of generating a digital access copy.

Access to Film Prints

In an effort to minimize potential damage to the material, we sometimes prohibit access to film prints, especially if the title is readily available on DVD or online. Exceptions, however, can be made for specific research needs. Film prints are inspected before delivery to the Reading Room. If a copy is in poor condition, it will not be made available for viewing. Every attempt will be made to transfer the item to a digital file, but this process may take up to six weeks.

To avoid damage to the material, film prints must be viewed at normal sound speed. Fast forwarding or rewinding is strictly prohibited. Viewers may, however, stop films and rewind scenes at normal speed for note taking. Patrons are not allowed to thread films on the viewing flatbeds; assistance will be provided.


Recording equipment of any type is not allowed in the viewing room. Photographing images from the screen for reference purposes will be permitted only when authorized in advance by our reference staff.

Reader Identification Card

See the section on "Using the Library of Congress" for information on how and where to obtain a Reader Identification Card.

Obtaining Copies & Copyright Information

We do not maintain a list of copyright-free material. Films made prior to January 1, 1924, are in the public domain and may be duplicated except where there may be donor restrictions by terms of an instrument of gift. While many (or even most) films published after January 1, 1924, are still protected by copyright, this is not always the case. Therefore, a search of the ownership records maintained by the Library’s Copyright Office may be necessary to determine an individual work’s copyright status.

Obtaining Copies

In most cases, requests for duplication of materials should be made directly to the individual, company, or organization that holds the copyright for the film or video in question.

If the copyright holders are unable to facilitate your request, or for materials that are only available at the Library of Congress, requests for duplication begin with the Moving Image Research Center staff, who gather basic information about the order, such as titles requested, format desired, collection restrictions (if any), and whether or not a copyright search is required. From there, the order goes to the Public Services Office for pricing and fulfillment.

Patrons requesting copies of moving images whose copyright status is uncertain will need to have a copyright search performed; reference staff can provide guidance on how this may be arranged. A copy of the search report indicating "no copyright registration found" or "no renewal found" must be filed with the Public Services Office before an order can be processed. Where a copyright owner is known, written permission will be necessary before a collection item can be copied.