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

Library of Congress: Prints and Photographs Reading Room

Introductory Information

Library of Congress: Prints and Photographs Reading Room

Address: 101 Independence Avenue SE, James Madison Building, Room LM337, Washington, DC 20540-4730

Telephone number: 202-707-6394

Contact information

Online catalog

Digital Collections link

Access Policies

Hours of service

Open to the public: Yes

IInterlibrary loan: No

Reference policy: Reference requests are accepted by: Ask-a-Librarian form, telephone, paper mail, in person.

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.

Background note:
The Prints and Photographs Division was formally established in 1897 as the Department of Graphic Arts. The core of the Library's early American holdings consist of the copyrighted prints and photographs transferred from the United States District Courts and (later) the Copyright Office. The Prints and Photographs collections today number over 16 million images. These include photographs, cartoons, fine art and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. While international in scope, the collections are particularly rich in materials produced in, or documenting the history of, the United States and the lives, interests and achievements of the American people.


Religion-related images are found throughout the collections. Most of the pictures are 19th- and 20th-century photographs and architectural drawings of American church buildings in all states and primarily representing Christian denominations. The leaders, facilities, and activities of many other religions in the United States and throughout the world are also represented.

Some relevant materials from major collections are listed below:

  • Architecture, Design, and Engineering Drawings Collection--hundreds of 19th- and 20th-century architectural drawings and sketches of churches and other religious structures from all over the world. The collection includes a large number of architectural drawings of churches in the Washington, D.C. area designed by Arthur Heaton, Waddy B. Wood, Thomas Tileston Waterman, and others. Also notable are the designs by Richard Morris Hunt and Victor Lundy.
  • British Cartoon Collection--prints satirizing church-state relations in England in the 18th century.
  • Camilo J. Vergara Archive—more than 2,000 photographs, primarily 1990s-present, show African American and Hispanic American houses of worship and people in such large cities as Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York.
  • Churches in the United States—more than 6,000 postcards show churches in the United States. Primarily exteriors; some interiors with views of altars, organs, and such architectural as stained glass windows. Includes some missions. Also known as the Werner E. Weber Collection.
  • F. Holland Day Collection--numerous photographic figure studies with religious themes, 1895-1917, including stylized representations of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.
  • French Political Cartoon Collection--caricatures and other images satirizing the state of religion in France from the Revolution through the Second Empire (1789-1870).
  • Religious experimentation and experience in America—close to 300 stereographs, mid-1800s to 1930s.
  • Schreiber Collection of European Book Illustrations—several thousand engravings from books, 1450 to 1800s, show Biblical scenes and portraits of religious leaders.
  • Sergei M. Prokudin-Gorskiĭ Photograph Collection—color photographs show churches, cathedrals, and mosques in the Russian Empire, 1905-1915.

In addition, relevant materials may be found in subject, geographic, and biographical files in the reading room. Samples of such material are listed below:

  • Specific subject files (most under the subject headings "religion," "religious articles," and "religious groups" with various subheadings) of photographs of camp meetings, revivals, religious services, missions among American Indians, and pictures related to various denominations--Catholics, Latter-day Saints (listed in the subject file under "Mormons"), Eastern Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses, Schwenkfelders, and Doukhobors.
  • Specific subject files of illustrations (file nos. 4443 and 4445) from published works (including Bibles, Goethe's Faust, and Dante's Divine Comedy), depicting angels, Judgment Day, Jesus, Moses, saints, churches, the Crucifixion, witchcraft, and allegorical representations of religious themes.
  • Geographic files contain pictures of churches, cathedrals, mosques, and temples from around the world.

The descriptions provided above are not exhaustive. Additional items and collections are searchable by title, subject, and artist in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, and the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Fuller descriptions of some collection material may be found in finding aids made by the Prints & Photographs Division. Researchers should consult with reference staff for information on specific collections or subject research on specific types of images.

Subject Headings

Angels; Baptists; Bible; Buddhists; Cathedrals; Catholic Church; Chapels; Christian sects; Church architecture; Church buildings; Church decoration and ornament; Church of God; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Church of the Brethren; Convents; Doukhobors; Episcopal Church; Graham, Billy, 1918- ; Holy Land; Indians of North America--Religion; Jehovah's Witnesses; Jesus Christ--Art; John XXIII, Pope (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli), 1881-1963; Judgment Day; Mennonites; Mission buildings; Missions and missionaries; Monasteries; Moses (Biblical leader); Moslems; Mosques; Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971; Paul VI, Pope (Giovanni Battista Montini), 1897-1978; Religion and state--France--1789-1870; Religion and state--Great Britain--18th century; Religious art; Religious articles; Religious education; Revivals; Ritual; Roberts, Oral, 1918- ; Rugambwa, Laurian, Cardinal, 1912- ; Russian Orthodox Church; Saints; Satanism; Schwenkfelders; Seminaries; Seventh-day Adventists; Shakers; Sheen, Fulton J., Bishop, 1895-1979; Snake handling; Spellman, Francis, Cardinal, 1889-1967; Sunday schools; Synagogues; Temples; Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975--Protest movements--Religious aspects; Washington National Cathedral