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Bulgarian Collections in the Library of Congress

Motion Pictures and Recorded Sound

Building of the Union of Bulgarian Composers, 2005.

A survey of the Bulgarian collections in the Library of Congress would not be complete without some mention of audio-visual format materials. Two reading rooms provide access to recordings, fiction and non-fiction films and TV programs from or related to Bulgaria: the Moving Image Research Center and the Recorded Sound Research Center. Each research center is the primary point of contact for materials in their respective formats, especially given that so much of the materials in audio-visual formats are not fully cataloged and findable via the Library of Congress online catalog.

The Moving Image Research Center holds a number of interesting items related to Bulgaria. The film collection contains notable works of Bulgarian cinema such as Measure by Measure (Mera spored mera) about the kidnapping of American missionary Miss Ellen Stone, and Hedgehogs are Born without Spines (Taralezhite se razhdat bez bodli), a comedy submitted to the Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film from Bulgaria in 1972. The collection also holds a selection of animated films such as Three Fools and a Cow (Trimata glupatsi i kravata) by Don'o Donev and Opera for a Hazelnut (Opera za edin leshtnik) by Boiko Kunev. Recently the Library of Congress acquired contemporary Bulgarian documentaries on DVD. Examples include The Good Samaritan (Dobriiat Samariianin), about a Bulgarian soldier who served in military missions overseas, and Capitalism in Bulgaria (Kapitalizmut po bulgarski) about the economic crisis in Bulgaria in the 1990s. All of the materials in this collection must be used onsite.

About the Moving Image Research Center

The Library of Congress began collecting motion pictures in 1893 when Thomas Edison and his brilliant assistant W.K.L. Dickson deposited the Edison Kinetoscopic Records for copyright. However, because of the difficulty of safely storing the flammable nitrate film used at the time, the Library retained only the descriptive material relating to motion pictures. In 1942, recognizing the importance of motion pictures and the need to preserve them as a historical record, the Library began the collection of the films themselves; from 1949 on these included films made for television. Today the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (MBRS) is responsible for the acquisition, cataloging and preservation of the Library's motion picture and television collections.

Sound recordings of Bulgarian music are held by the Recorded Sound Research Center. Hundreds of titles from Bulgaria or with a Bulgarian connection can be found in the Library of Congress online catalog by conducting a search limiting the results to the location of Recorded Sound. One collection strength is Bulgarian folk music with many examples of both instrumental and choral music. Bulgarian operatic singers and classical composers also are well-represented with recordings, for example, by the singers Nicolai Ghiaurov and Boris Christoff, and composers Pancho Vladigerov and Dobri Hristov. Another area of interest are recordings of Orthodox Eastern religious music and chants. Many of the recordings in the collection from Bulgaria were produced by Balkanton, the government sponsored recording studio established in the 1950s. Bulgarian pop music is not covered to any extent.

The NBC Collection includes several radio reports by American journalists in Bulgaria in the 1930s and 1940s, including a portion of an Easter service in Sofia in 1938, and two reports on activities of the Bulgarian Army and the mood of residents of Sofia from October, 1944. Other broadcasts include the radio play “Escape from the Balkans,” written by Bulgarian journalist Michael Padev about his own experiences, which aired in the “Words at War” series in 1943; and a 1940 program in political scientist Harold D. Lasswell’s “Human Nature in Action Series,” in which he discusses nationalism in Bulgaria, part of a 12 week series he did on the theme of nationalism in various parts of the world at that time.

All of the materials in these collections must be used onsite.

About the Recorded Sound Research Center

The Recorded Sound Research Center provides access to the commercial and archival audio holdings of the Library of Congress. The collection dates from 1926 when Victor Records donated over 400 discs to the Library's Music Division to supplement its print and manuscript holdings. In the custody of the Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division since 1978, the collection has grown to include over 2 million items encompassing audio formats from cylinders to CDs.