Skip to main content

Moving Image Research at the Library of Congress

The Library began collecting motion pictures in 1893 when Thomas Edison and his assistant W.K.L. Dickson deposited the Edison Kinetoscopic Records for copyright. This guide focuses on moving image materials available from the Library.

Introduction

Edison's Greatest Marvel--the Vitascope. c1896. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The Library of Congress began collecting motion pictures in 1893 when Thomas Edison and his assistant W.K.L. Dickson deposited the Edison Kinetoscopic Records for copyright. Although there was no provision in the copyright law for motion pictures until 1912, early film producers such as Edison printed their movies on paper rolls and sent them to the Library of Congress as still photographs. In 1912, the copyright law established motion pictures as a distinct form, but the Library chose not to house the flammable nitrate film in use at the time and returned all works to the claimants, retaining only descriptive printed material relating to the films that accompanied nitrate film deposits. 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. The Moving Image Research Center provides access and information services to an international community of film and television professionals, archivists, scholars and researchers. Our holdings complement the audio recordings served in the Recorded Sound Research Center.

Featured Video from our Digital Collections:

This short film is from the America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894 to 1915 digital collection.

Check out our Blog!

Now See Hear banner