Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Washington: Library of Congress

Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Washington: Library of Congress

Article excerpt

Motion pictures were first collected by the Library of Congress as copyright deposits, beginning October 6, 1893, when W.K.L. Dickson registered the first movie intended for commercial distribution on behalf of the Thomas Edison Company. The Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress was founded in May, 1942 by Archibald MacLeish, who was Librarian from 1939 to 1944. One of the Library's first important acquisitions during the 1940s was the film collection of Mary Pickford. Today the Library has a research collection of more than 125,000 films, over 150,000 television broadcasts, 500,000 radio programs, and 1.7 million sound recordings.

During the period 1893 to 1915, the Library received over 15,000 motion picture copyright registrations from American and foreign producers. In the case of more than 3000 of those copyright transactions, the Library acquired «complete» copies of the original camera negatives printed as positive images onto photographic paper rolls (*). Today those paper images are collectively known as the Library of Congress Paper Print Collection, and they comprise the best existing representative cross-section of early silent era movies produced and exhibited in the United States.

Approximately one fourth of the films in the Paper Print Collection (750) were produced during the period 1896 through the end of 1900. Added to the pre-1901 films acquired and preserved in other collections, the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress possesses numbers over one thousand titles. Approximately 90% are American and the remainder are foreign productions, consisting mainly of French (Lumière and Méliès) films and some British. The majority of the Library's Lumière films were acquired in the modern era from French archives, though fragments of unique pre-1900 French productions are scattered among some of the miscellaneous reels in the Library. Taken altogether the Library holds one of the largest, most complete research collections of pre-1901 motion pictures in the world.

The major portion of the pre-1901 films in the Library were produced by the Thomas Edison and American Mutoscope and Biograph companies. The output of those companies during the nineteenth century was modelled on the image genres commercially popular with Americans of the period through lantern slides, stereographs, advertising art and other still picture formats. …

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