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Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives: Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia

Library of Congress: Moving Image Research Center

Introductory Information

Library of Congress: Moving Image Research Center

Address: 101 Independence Ave. SE, James Madison Building, LM 336, Washington, D.C. 20540-4690

Telephone number: (202) 707-8572 

Contact information

Online catalog

Digital Collections link

Access Policies

Hours of service

Open to the public: Yes, with restrictions

Interlibrary loan: No

Reference policy: reference requests are accepted by Ask-a-Librarian form, telephone, email, in person

Staff in the Moving Image Research Center do not undertake subject research. Most of the works in this collections have not been fully cataloged and are accessible primarily by title. Identifying films and videos by subject often requires a variety of strategies, including keyword searches of the various manual and online catalogs, searching the vertical files, and compiling title lists from secondary reference sources. There is not sufficient staff to perform the required research for stock footage requests, but librarians will assist researchers or their representatives in their own research. A list of freelance researchers in the Washington, DC, area is also available upon request.

A Library of Congress Reader Registration card is required to use Library of Congress reading rooms. To obtain a registration card, applicants must be 16 years of age or older and present photo identification bearing a verifiable permanent address. Please see Reader Registration and Access to Library of Congress Reading Rooms for more information.

Background note:
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. 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 to collect films themselves. From 1949 on these included films made for television. Today, the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center has responsibility for the acquisition, cataloging, and preservation of the motion picture and television collections, which currently consist of over 300,000 moving images. The Division operates the Moving Image Research Center to provide access and information services to an international community of film and television professionals, archivists, scholars, and researchers.


Videos and sound recordings
Because the collection is not cataloged by subject for the most part, it is not possible to provide detailed information about religion-related holdings of films and videotapes. Consultation with reference staff is recommended to find needed materials. The collection is strong in materials submitted to the Library for copyright, and so includes a reasonably complete collection of religious-themed feature films made and/or distributed in the United States, ranging from traditional Biblical epics (e.g. The Ten Commandments, 1956; the 1925 silent version of Ben-Hur) to films offering social comment on religion (Elmer Gantry, 1960) to more contemporary works (The Last Temptation of Christ, 1989; Bruce Almighty, 2003, Doubt, 2008, Book of Eli, 2010). There may also be found dramatizations of religious literature, e.g. the 1991 production of the Mahabharata by Peter Brooks. Television programs in the collection include documentaries (e.g. The Long Search, a 1978 BBC/Time-Life production examining the major world religions), and evangelistic programs such as The World Tomorrow (from the Worldwide Church of God, featuring Garner Ted Armstrong and Herbert W. Armstrong; Library of Congress holdings run from 1978 to 1983), and Insight (a Catholic program from Paulist Productions; the Library has holdings from the early 1980s).

Library of Congress holdings of film and videotape are partially recorded in the Merged Audio Visual Information System (MAVIS) and the Library's online catalog. This file also contains catalog records for materials from other libraries which are not held by the Library of Congress. In the research center is a card catalog by title, and reference staff have prepared various inventories and finding aids for specific collections.

Databases and/or electronic resources

Digital collections

Subject Headings

Religion in motion pictures; Television in religion; Worldwide Church of God


Library of Congress. National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. Moving Image Research Center. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from

Library of Congress. National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. Motion Pictures in the Library of Congress. Retrieved March 23, 2022, from

Library of Congress. National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. Television in the Library of Congress .Retrieved March 23, 2022, from