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

Library of Congress: Recorded Sound Research Center

Introductory Information

Library of Congress: Recorded Sound Research Center

Address: 101 Independence Avenue SE, James Madison Building, Room113, Washington, DC 20540-4698

Telephone number: 202-707-7833

Contact information

Online catalog

Digital Collections link

Access Policies

Hours of service

Open to the public: Yes

Interlibrary loan: No

Reference policy: Reference requests are accepted by: Ask-a-Librarian form, chat, telephone, email, 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 for more information.

Background note:
The Library of Congress' Recording Laboratory was established in 1940 by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The Library's collections of audio recordings in all formats (tape, LP, CD, and others) are now the largest in the United States and among the most comprehensive in the world. The collection now stands at over 3.5 million recordings, with more items added every year.
The Recorded Sound Research Center is part of the Library's National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. The Center has a large collection of discographies, periodicals, and general reference works as well as card catalogs, microfilm indexes, online catalogs, and other resources for accessing the collections.


Videos and sound recordings

Materials about religion may be found throughout the Library's massive recorded sound collections. A complete inventory of these materials is not possible; a sample of the collection is provided below. All materials must be retrieved from the closed stacks. The collection is particularly strong in commercially produced recordings submitted for copyright, archival collections related to American history, and materials acquired through Library of Congress field offices in Asia and Africa.

  • Recorded lectures and talks on religion by prominent individuals, including Graham Greene, Clare Boothe Luce, Andrew Greeley (six recordings), Harvey Cox (one 1968 lecture), and others.
  • A comprehensive collection of religious music from the standard European classical repertoire, including masses, motets (over 400 recordings), oratorios, sacred songs, and sacred instrumental music.
  • Several hundred recordings of Christian hymns in English, Latin, German, Greek, Coptic, Norwegian, Croatian, Polish, Arabic, Russian, Hungarian, Italian, Swedish, Spanish, Welsh, and other languages.
  • Over 170 recordings of African American spirituals and gospel music, and over 40 recordings of sermons and church services in African American churches of various denominations.
  • A large number of recorded sermons, addresses, and lectures by prominent religious figures such as Billy Graham (six recordings), Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Peter Marshall (dozens of recordings), Norman Vincent Peale (about 15 recordings), the fourteenth Dalai Lama (six recordings), Aimee Semple McPherson (about 15 recordings), Mother Teresa (three recordings, 1975, 1987, and 1988), Elizabeth Clare Prophet (nine recordings), Pope John Paul II (six recordings of addresses and masses from visits to Poland, the U.S., Ireland, and elsewhere), Kenneth Copeland, and others.
  • Over 2300 recordings of contemporary Christian popular music, and over 370 recordings of Christian rock music.
  • A large number of documentaries and radio programs about religion, on such topics as creationism, abortion, the influence of religious conservatives in American politics, the social teachings of Pope John Paul II, and other topics.
  • Biographical profiles of prominent religious figures, including Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Andrew Greeley, and others.
  • Recorded proceedings of a 1965 conference on Pope John XXIII's encyclical Pacem in terris, with contributions from Paul Tillich and other prominent figures from the fields of religion, science, and politics.
  • One disc of Mozarabic chant from Spain, 1990.
  • One disc of the Maronite Catholic liturgy, sung in Aramaic and Arabic, 1982.
  • Numerous spoken word recordings of the Bible, books of the Bible, commentaries, and dramatizations of Bible stories, in English, Bulgarian, Finnish, German (including Martin Buber reading excerpts from his translation of the Hebrew Bible, recorded in 1958), and other languages.
  • Several recordings on various aspects of Christian Science, including a reproduction of a 1902 address by Mary Baker Eddy.
  • About 20 recordings on various aspects of Mormonism, including spoken word recordings of Mormon texts and church conference proceedings.
  • Several recordings of Jewish chant from France, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Israel, and the United States.
  • Over 170 recordings of Gregorian chant, and several recordings of Anglican, Byzantine, Armenian, Ethiopian, and other types of Christian chant.
  • An extensive set of recordings related to Scientology in the L. Ron Hubbard Collection, including lectures delivered by Hubbard and spoken-word recordings of his books.
  • One cassette of lesbian Christian rap music, 1993.
  • Several recordings from the 1980s and 1990s related to spiritual aspects of the New Age movement, including recorded "channeling" sessions and several recordings of music related to goddess religion.
  • Islamic hymns and music from Sudan, Syria, Morocco, Kenya, Labanon, Algeria, Malaysia, Turkey, Indonesia, and India.
  • Islamic sermons from Iran (delivered by Iranian education minister Baradar Parvarish, 1983) and Malaysia, acquired through Library of Congress field offices.
  • Islamic poetry from Kashmir (in Pahari), Pakistan (in Urdu and Punjabi), and other countries.
  • Several recordings of Sufi chant from Turkey, Syria, Egypt, and Kosovo province in the former Yugoslavia.
  • Recordings from India of lectures and programs on Hindu religion and philosophy in Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, Tamil, and other Indian languages.
  • Over 100 recordings of Hindu hymns, music, and ritual in Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Sanskrit, and other languages, and including devotional hymns to Krishna, Rama, Durga, Siva, Radha, and other Hindu deities.
  • Recordings of Buddhist rituals and songs from Japan, Tibet, and Sri Lanka, including a collection of 26 cassettes of Sinhalese Buddhist songs recorded in the 1980s.
  • About 40 recordings of lectures and talks on various aspects of Buddhist teaching, including meditation, bodhisattvas, and conduct of life.
  • One cassette of shamanic rituals from Vietnam, ca. 1990.

Sound recordings are partially listed in the Merged Audio Visual Information System (MAVIS), the Library’s online catalog, Sound Online Inventory Catalog (SONIC), and in card catalogs in the Recorded Sound Research Center. There are also many special inventories and indexes on microfiche and computer. Many materials in the collections are uncataloged; consult with reference staff to locate needed materials.

Databases and/or electronic resources

Digital collections

Subject Headings

African Americans--Religion; Bible; Buddhism; Chants; Christian rock music; Christian Science; Church music; Church of Latter-day Saints of Jesus Christ; Church of Scientology; Church services; Coughlin, Charles E., Father, 1891-1979; Cox, Harvey, 1929- ; Dalai Lama XIV (Bstan-'dzin-rgya-mtsho), 1935- ; Gospel music; Graham, Billy, 1918- ; Greeley, Andrew, 1928- ; Gregorian chant; Hinduism; Hubbard, L. Ron, 1911-1986; Hymns and hymnals; Islam; John XXIII, Pope (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli), 1881-1963; John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla), Pope, 1920- ; Judaism; McPherson, Aimee Semple, 1890-1944; Marshall, Peter, 1902-1949; Peale, Norman Vincent, 1898-1993; Prophet, Elizabeth Clare, 1940- ; Radio in religion; Ritual; Sacred music--Buddhism; Sacred music--Christianity; Sacred music--Hinduism; Sacred music--Islam; Sermons; Shamanism; Spirituals; Teresa, Mother, 1910-1997