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"Religion," mural in the North Corridor, Library of Congress Jefferson Building, by Charles Sprague Pearce, 1897.

Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

Library of Congress
Motion Picture and Television Reading Room

Address: 101 Independence Avenue SE
James Madison Building, Room LM336
Washington, DC 20540-4690
Telephone Number: (202) 707-8572
Fax Number: (202) 707-2371
Contact Persons: Call Reading Room for reference assistance
Internet Catalog Address: or
telnet to Both telnet (vt100) and tn3270 are supported.

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Monday--Friday 8:30 a.m.--5:00 p.m.
Weekends/Federal Holidays Closed
Open to the public: Yes, with restrictions.
Photocopying:: Yes
Interlibrary loan: No

The primary mission of the Library of Congress is to serve Members of Congress and thereafter, the needs of the government, other libraries, and members of the public, universities, and learned societies.

A Library of Congress Registration Card is required to use the reading room. To obtain a registration card, applicants must be 18 years of age or older and present photo identification bearing a verifiable permanent address. The cards are issued without charge in Room G40 of the Jefferson Building. Enter on the Second Street side of the Jefferson Building to locate this room.

Viewing facilities, which are available without charge, are provided for those doing research of a specific nature leading toward a publicly available work such as a dissertation, publication, or film/television production. The facilities may not be used for purely personal study or appreciation, nor in ways--such as preview--that conflict with commercial distribution. Graduate students and undergraduates in advanced classes wishing to screen films should first obtain letters from their professors endorsing their projects. The Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound facilities may not be used to make up missed classroom screenings, or to complete class assignments. For preservation reasons, films may not be run in forward or reverse at fast speed; viewers may stop films and rewind at normal sound speed for note taking. The Reading Room is unable to accommodate groups. There is a limit of two people per machine, in which case both viewers should be involved in the research project. All viewing is by advance appointment. Because many of the collections are stored in remote locations, an average wait of one week should be expected. Viewers submitting lengthy title lists to be searched by reference staff should expect a wait of two to three weeks for preparation. Viewing lists for films should be arranged in alphabetical order. A maximum of three features, or their equivalent, may be viewed in one day. For films less than five minutes in length, no more than 50 reels will be made available on a single viewing date. For video formats, no more than thirty items will be made available per day. Four consecutive weeks of viewing time may be reserved. Video cameras and tape recorders are not allowed in the viewing room. Photographing images from the screen with still cameras for reference purposes is permitted only when authorized by reference staff. Screening time is limited and must be scheduled. Cancellation without sufficient notice tends to prevent others from having access to the facilities. The Division encourages researchers to be considerate of others in this regard.

Reference Policy:
Staff in the Motion Picture and Television Reading Room 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.
Borrowing Privileges:
Not a lending institution.
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 Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division (M/B/RS) 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 Motion Picture and Television Reading Room to provide access and information services to an international community of film and television professionals, archivists, scholars, and researchers.

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Description of Collections

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; The Rapture, 1992; Little Buddha, 1993). 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 Audio-visual file on MUMS, part of the Library of Congress Information System (LOCIS), 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 reading room is a card catalog by title, and reference staff have prepared various inventories and finding aids for specific collections.

Subject Headings

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


Library of Congress. Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division. Motion Picture and Television Reading Room [Online]. Available HTTP. URL October 1996.

Library of Congress. Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division. Motion Pictures in the Library of Congress [Online]. Available HTTP. URL September 1998.

Library of Congress. Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division. Television in the Library of Congress [Online]. Available HTTP. URL September 1998.

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  June 22, 2017
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