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Film Music: A Research Guide

The Library of Congress houses thousands of film scores and other materials related to film production dating back to the 1890s. This guide highlights primary and secondary resources for film music research.


John Margolies, photographer. Rialto Theater Tower, Lake Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 1984. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The Library of Congress Music Division holds one of the largest collections in the world of film music. Included are scores for tens of thousands of films—primarily acquired through copyright registration—and dozens of special collections focused on composers, orchestrators, and arrangers who worked in the film industry. These materials date back to film’s inception, and the Music Division’s unique holdings include music manuscripts, sketches, rejected scores, and early and edited versions of scores. But these resources also include cue sheets, scripts, production notes, recording session materials, photographs, storyboards, production design materials, and other ephemera.

This research guide provides an overview of how to use and navigate the Library's extensive collections of material relevant to researching film music. Although the primary focus is given to the Music Division's collections, this guide provides information on locating relevant materials accessed in the Recorded Sound and Moving Image Research Centers, Prints and Photographs Division, and Manuscript Division.

The research guide Music for Silent Film: A Guide to Resources at the Library of Congress provides more detailed coverage of the thousands of items specific to music for silent film within the Library’s holdings.

Contact the Moving Image Research Center directly for information on viewing films.

Relevant Research Guide

About the Performing Arts Reading Room

The Performing Arts Reading Room is the access point for the collections in the custody of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Numbering approximately 20.5 million items and spanning more than 1000 years of Western music history and practice, these holdings include the classified music and book collections, music and literary manuscripts, iconography, microforms, periodicals, musical instruments, published and unpublished copyright deposits, and close to 500 special collections in music, theater, and dance.