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Theater Research at the Library of Congress

General Collections

This page describes call numbers and subject headings that are helpful to users who wish to browse the Online Catalog. Find most books and periodicals related to theater in the Main Reading Room. Find some materials in the Performing Arts Reading Room. Library of Congress materials are classified by subject, indicated by letters and numbers.

Within subclass PN, PN2000-3307 is the primary range of classes for theater. Select reference materials and rare books in Subclass PN may be in the Performing Arts Reading Room. Most materials are in the general collections resources in the Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building. For more information, see the complete classification schedule for Class PN

  • PN2061-2071: Art of acting
  • PN2085-2091: The stage and accessories
  • PN2131-2193: By period
    • PN2131-2145: Ancient
    • PN2152-2160: Medieval
    • PN2171-2179: Renaissance
    • PN2181-2193: Modern
  • PN2219.3-3030: Special regions or countries
  • PN3035: The Jewish theater
  • PN3151-3171: Amateur theater
  • PN3175-3191: College and school theatricals
  • PN3203-3299: Tableaux, pageants, "Happenings," etc.

For an overview of general collections materials specific to musical theater, visit the Music Collections Overview page of the Musicals of Stage and Screen Resource Guide:

In the Library's class system, "N" precedes call numbers of library materials related to the subject of Fine Arts. Theater researchers may find helpful materials relevant to theatrical design, including set design, lighting, costumes, traditional cultural dress, and other visual materials. For more information, see the classification schedule for Class N.

Subclasses of theater interest include:

  • NC: Drawing, Design, Illustration
  • ND: Painting
  • NK: Decorative Arts
  • NX: Arts in General

Use these call numbers to browse the Online Catalog. View the physical materials under Class N in the Main Reading Room of the Thomas Jefferson Building.

Many play scripts have been classified and stored in the Library's onsite collections in the Music Division, Main Reading Room, and Manuscript Division collections. Search for them by title or author in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. If you do not find the title for which you are looking, see the "Copyright Registrations" page of this research guide for additional guidance.

You can also browse the Online Catalog for scripts using a variety of subject headings. Most of these headings exist under the umbrella heading "Drama." Narrower terms are listed within the provided link below.

Use the Library of Congress Subject Headings and the Library of Congress Name Authority Files to browse and find additional relevant materials. Catalog records and finding aids include these authoritative forms of subjects, places, and people to unify individual or unique descriptions. Subject Headings and Authority Files allow you to:

  • Discover resources with common topics, organizations, people, or languages
  • Learn authoritative spellings of names, places, and subjects
  • Find more specific sub-headings within a broader topic
  • Learn older or updated terminology related to a subject, profession, or culture

Sample subject headings: