Motion Pictures

Visit the Moving Image and Sound Research Room in College Park, Maryland

Moving Image and Sound Research Room

Our research room hours are Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.      
Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal Holidays

Moving Image and Sound, 4th Floor (Room 4000)
National Archives at College Park
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD  20740
Email: mopix@nara.gov
Phone: 301-837-3540

Welcome to the Moving Image and Sound Research Room at the National Archives (NARA). This introduction is designed to familiarize you with the available resources for conducting your research, as well as the procedures that you are required to observe to safely handle and protect the materials you use. Please also see Historical Research at College ParkThe National Archives at College Park, MarylandInformation for Researchers and Plan Your Research Visit for location, directions, and helpful tips to make your research visit to our College Park facility more productive and successful.

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Moving Image and Recorded Sound Research Room front monitoring station

A Research Room monitor will be able to assist you upon entering the room at the front desk, where your researcher identification card will be swiped in to register your use of the room for the day. Reference consultants are also available Monday - Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 pm. to provide more in-depth assistance in getting you started with your research.  

Research Room Resources

Research begins by consulting NARA’s Online Catalog, and finding aids available in our Research Room. You can search NARA’s Online Catalog and other online research tools in advance of your visit, or in the Research Room. Consultation and Reference staff in the Research Room can assist you with identifying potentially relevant holdings for your research, what types of reference copies are available for specific items, and how to access them. Staff can also help you prepare for your visit in advance by contacting us at our reference mailbox, mopix@nara.gov

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Public Access Computers in the Moving Image and Sound Research Room

Public access computer terminals in the Research Room are increasingly used to search, identify, view and copy digitized NARA holdings. These computers are equipped with internet access to search the NARA’s Online Catalog and other online resources. They also provide access to digitized finding aids and a large collection of digital reference files. These computers, and self-serve reference copies on DVD, can be used any time during the room’s regular operating hours.  Public access computer terminals are available to researchers on a first-come, first-served basis, and staff may ask that you limit your time on the computers if other researchers are waiting to use them. Please note that not all items from NARA holdings have been digitized.

Finding Aids

In addition to the online catalog, finding aids are available in several locations throughout the Research Room, and additional finding aids, production files, indexes and original agency catalogs may be pulled from the NARA stack areas. When U.S. Government agencies transfer motion picture, sound, and video records to NARA, they also transfer any existing finding aids. Frequently, such finding aids are in card catalog form. Because the records were created by many government agencies independent of one another, there is no master card catalog or other finding aid to all motion picture, sound, and video holdings. Various finding aids available for researchers are described below.

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Catalog Card for film "Footage of V-E Day; Washington, DC" National Archives Identifier: 178930040 Local Identifier: 18-SFP-9138

Motion picture, sound, and video material is described in several independent card catalogs. Staff members will help you determine the catalog(s) suited to your research needs. The scope and content for each card catalog is available here.

A growing number of these card catalogs have been digitized and are available in through the online catalog, and a small number are maintained in the research room: most catalog cards will need to be pulled from the stacks.  For the card catalogs that are shelved in the Research Room, please remove an entire box of catalog cards from the shelf, not individual cards, and take the box to a reference desk at the front of the room to look through them.

Researchers should reshelve the boxes after use. If you wish to copy cards on the copier, first take the entire box of catalog cards to the control desk for copy approval before going to the copier. Please use the pink marker cards available at the control desk to mark the place in the box from which you remove catalog cards for copying. Please remove only one box at a time. The cards must remain in the order they were in so please refile accordingly. Please use the card boxes only at the reference desks and at the copier station. Please do not take them to the viewing/listening stations.

The Preservation Binders-The preservation binders are legacy lists of motion picture, sound, and video holdings, both cataloged and uncataloged. They are located on shelves near the Public Access Computer terminals. The binders and listings are arranged in numerical order by Record Group number. A Record Group is an administrative designation given to records created by an agency of government or donated materials. For instance, Record Group (RG) 111 pertains to records created by the Army Signal Corps. The listings help you determine if a reference copy is available, the format of the record(s); and can help determine if the record(s) are restricted by copyright or other restriction.

Topic files containing selected citations to motion picture, sound, and video holdings by subject are located in file cabinets along the balcony railing. Compiled by NARA staff, there are over 200 files for motion picture/video holdings by topic such as the Atom bomb, Civil Rights, Pearl Harbor, and Wildlife. There are over 250 files for sound holdings such as D-Day, Fireside Chats, and the Watergate Hearings.

Access to Records/Protection of Archival Materials and Archives Equipment

NARA does not serve the original source materials of motion picture, video, and recorded sound collections in the Research Room. This is a preservation measure designed to protect fragile, machine dependent original materials. NARA serves reference copies of such holdings in our research room, which currently exist on a variety of analog and digital formats. 

Researchers are obligated to observe the rules and procedures that are in place to protect the Archives' holdings, so they will be available for future generations. Researchers at  NARA are expected to follow the National Archives Research Room Rules. For instance, smoking, eating, chewing gum, drinking, and using pens are prohibited in the Room. 

Special care is necessary when using archival audiovisual items. To protect the motion picture films, we provide nitrile gloves that must be worn whenever handling the film and you must remain at the film viewing station while the film is in use. Please remain in the research room when operating audiovisual equipment. If equipment or media malfunctions, breaks, jams, etc., please notify a staff member immediately before attempting to continue operating the equipment. Only NARA videotapes and audiotapes may be used in the research room equipment. No personal tapes, even if unopened and still in original packaging, may be placed in the research room equipment. For additional information about  copying and duplication options and services, please see Order Copies of Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings

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At these stations, researchers can view and listen to videotape or DVD reference copies from NARA’s holdings, and make copies of holdings which are not restricted by copyright or donor restrictions. There are 8 stations for viewing/listening to materials in 3/4-inch (U-Matic), 1/2-inch VHS/S-VHS, or DVD formats. Stand alone DVD burners are provided at the viewing stations, which can be used to create DVD copies from NARA’s analog videotapes. There is no direct digital file output option from video tape stations at this time. High speed DVD to DVD burners are also available for researcher use.  NARA recommends that researchers bring their own blank DVD stock to create copies. NARA can also make available blank DVDs to researchers at a cost of $2.00 per disc.

Researchers can listen to audio tape reference copies from NARA’s holdings at audio listening stations (reel to reel, audio cassette and CD) and make copies of holdings which are not restricted by copyright or donor restrictions. There is a direct digital file output option when copying from an analog source. The output option is in the .MP3 digital file format, and requires a researcher-provided USB flash drive to copy and save the file. ​

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KEM viewing station for 16mm motion picture film in the Moving Image and Sound Research Room

Many of NARA’s reference copies exist on motion picture film reels. 16mm and 35mm motion picture film is viewed in a designated room located adjacent to the rear information desk. KEM archival flatbed film viewers are available to view NARA’s reference films. You must remain at the playback station at all times while the film is in use, and gloves are required when handling film. NARA staff can help you get started if you are unfamiliar handling film or operation of the KEM. 

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Page from production file for "Draft and Mobilization Activities: 1917-1918" National Archives Identifier: 24614 Local Identifier: 111-H-1107

Researchers may request access to original textual records, which may contain production notes, background information, scripts, rights and permission files. Consultation staff can help you determine which items, series or Record Groups have associated textual files which are held by the Moving Image and Recorded Sound branch. In some cases, there may be related documents held by our Textual Records Division, located on the second floor (Room 2000) at College Park.

Reproductions

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A paper to paper copier is in the room for copying catalog cards, pages of other finding aids, and textual documents. It operates with a debit card that is purchased in the room. Please take the item(s) you wish to copy to a staff member at the control desk for copy approval before going to the copier. Please see the section on card catalogs for information on copying cards.  Please see the fee schedule for current fees. As described above, researchers may use their own recording devices to copy content directly from the equipment in the room.

Outside vendors can provide duplication services for both broadcast and non-broadcast quality motion picture film, videotapes, and sound recordings. NARA supplies to vendors intermediate copies of an archival original item from which the vendor makes a reproduction. Usually, the contents of an entire item is copied. For more information, please speak with a staff member. For information please speak with a staff member or consult Order Copies of Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings.  Handouts pertaining to copy orders are also available at the Control Desk at the front of the room, and available at these links: General Information about Ordering Reproductions, How to Order Broadcast Quality Copies, and How To Order Sound Recording Copies .

Generally speaking, Federal government records are treated as if in the public domain and may be freely copied. However, there are times when copyrighted or other restricted use material may be included with records transferred to NARA by government agencies. Additionally, NARA possesses privately produced material that has been donated with copyright or other use restrictions. Please speak with a staff member regarding the copyright or restricted use status of material you wish to copy for reuse. For more information see Permissions / Rights for Use of Special Media Records at NARA .

Questions? Contact Us

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Photograph of Miss Helen Merriam, Division of Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings (December, 1943) . National Archives Identifier: 12349305 Local Identifier: 64-NA-397

Questions concerning the Moving Image and Sound Branch holdings may be directed to mopix@nara.gov . 

Questions concerning the Nixon Presidential Materials may be directed to nixonreference@nara.gov .

For other questions or for more information about the National Archives, please visit our Contact Us page

 

 

 

 

 

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