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Congressional Audiovisual Recordings

This guide covers the audio and video recordings of House and Senate Floor proceedings available to the public from the Library of Congress's National Audio-Visual Conservation Center


People in the control room of the television cameras in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol
Trikosko, Marion S., photographer. [People in the control room of the television cameras in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol] / MST. 1977. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, U.S. News & World Report Magazine, [LC-DIG-ppmsca-56556].

The history of the Library of Congress’ collection of Congressional recordings begins on October 27, 1977.

On that day, the House of Representatives resolved:

to provide for a system for closed circuit viewing of the proceedings of the House and to provide for the orderly development of a system for audio and visual broadcasting thereof.1

In 1979, gavel-to-gavel coverage of House proceedings began. Following a trial run on February 19, on March 19 access was provided to accredited broadcast media. At first, House proceedings were recorded on 1-inch videotape. Prior to April 1983, the tapes were not transferred to the Library, but were instead kept by Congress for 60 days and then recycled. Thus, the Library holds only a handful of videos of House proceedings from early 1979 to 1983. The exceptions are described in further detail throughout the guide.

The Library of Congress holds audio recordings of House Floor proceedings dated from February 21, 1979 through December 31, 1985. The audio recordings were held for 30 days and then transferred to the Library of Congress.

On the Senate side, although legislation to permit permanent live gavel-to-gavel coverage of floor proceedings had been introduced in 1981, it was not until 1986 (99th Congress), and the efforts of Majority Leader Bob Dole and Democratic Leader Robert C. Byrd, that a vote was taken to allow for a three-month trial period. Live national coverage of Senate floor proceedings began on June 2, 1986.

Both the House and the Senate, starting in 1983 and 1986 respectively, have been sending a second set of videotapes (and later digital files) of the floor proceedings to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). An agreement between the Library of Congress and NARA determined that the Library is to use its set to provide public access and fulfill duplication requests while NARA will treat its holdings as preservation masters.

This guide provides information on the Library's collection of Congressional recordings and how to locate and use these recordings.


  1. U.S. Congress, House, Providing for Radio and Television Coverage of House Proceedings, HR 866, 95th Cong., 1st sess., introduced in House October 27, 1977. Back to text