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Television Commercials in the Moving Image Collections

Using the Collections

There are many ways to search for commercials in the collections of the Library of Congress. On this page you'll find more information about finding aids, pick up a few tips and tricks for searching the Library of Congress Online Catalog, and learn how to view commercials in the Moving Image Research Center.

Finding Aids

A finding aid is a document containing detailed information about a specific collection. It generally consists of an inventory and description of the collection materials, their source, and their structure. Below are finding aids for the Karr, Gitt, and Dartmouth collections of television commercials, as well as a collections summary of the Prelinger Archive. 

For more information on the Coca-Cola Advertising Collection and to inquire about specific commercials, contact the Moving Image Research Center. Submit a question through Ask-a-Librarian, or see the link below.

Interpreting Finding Aids

Several of the finding aids linked above contain film citations that provide bibliographic information about the film, including production information, a physical description, a summary and notes, as well as shelf or call number. The format of film citations will differ throughout finding aids, but will have several common features. The following is a sample of a typical citation:

ALICE THE TOREADOR. (1924) (Title/Date)
FAB 1199 (Shelf or call #)
AFI/ Marshall (George) Collection (Donor/Collection)
16mm ref. print (225 ft.): b&w. (Physical description)
Series: Alice Comedies
Prod. Co. & Dist.: M.J. Winkler Productions.
Animator: Walt Disney
*Summary: The antics of a live-action girl in an animated account of the girl's adventures with a tame steer in a bull ring.
**Note: End title lacking. Combination animation and live action.

* Plot summaries are provided either from secondary sources or personal viewings.
** The Note field contains information about copyright, reissues, missing or added footage, and incomplete copies.

Search Strategies

Most commercials in the Library's Online Catalog will have "television commercial" in their title.

commercial catalog record example

This makes it easy to search for them in the catalog. Advanced Search is the best place to search for Moving Image materials. In the Advanced Search Screen, search for "television commercial" and select "as a phrase" from the drop-down menu just to the right of the box for your search term. You may also want to add "movingim" as a second keyword, to ensure that you only get moving image materials.

advanced search example

Some television programs in our collections include commercials within the body of the program, as when the show actually aired. This will be noted in the "Notes" section of the catalog record, often with some information about what was advertised. Searching "commercial" and the name of a product or sponsor can identify these commercials.

See the Moving Images at the Library of Congress Research Guide (coming soon) for more general search strategies, and get in touch with Moving Image Research Center reference librarians if you're having trouble finding what you're looking for.

Viewing Commercials

Moving Image Research Center. James Madison Building. Library of Congress.

Viewing takes place in the Moving Image Research Center in the Madison Building of the Library, on Capitol Hill. To view materials, submit a viewing request to our reference librarians through Ask a Librarian.

When submitting viewing requests, please provide as much information as you can about the items you want to view. The title, call number, and date of an item are particularly important. 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).

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. This process takes time, however, so researchers are encouraged to submit viewing requests and make appointments as far in advance as possible.

For reference assistance and to learn more about viewing, see the link below:

Screenshots above taken on August 15, 2018.