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Let’s All Go to the Moving Images

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The Great Train Robbery. Casablanca. Star Wars. 12 Years a Slave.

I Love Lucy. All in the Family. Seinfeld. Game of Thrones.

Fred Ott
Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (January 7, 1894)

These well-known films and television shows are all part of the Library’s moving image collection. And so are How Buttons Got Even With the Butler (American Mutoscope & Biograph, 1903), Daily Report of Japanese Wrestling (Dai Nihon Sumo Kyokai, 1940), Aerial Gunnery Training Film. Series 11: Quarter Attacks (U.S. Army Signal Corp, 1942), Meet Millie (CBS, 1955), and Unidentified Drama (?, ?). The point is that the collection is very broad and very deep. Although we do have a formal collections policy, it can be summarized pretty succinctly: we collect in every imaginable category.

The moving image collection is built on the bedrock of copyright, starting with our oldest surviving copyright deposit, Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze from January 1894. It continues to grow primarily through copyright, including the very latest movies and TV shows. However, we’re also an acquisitive bunch and can point to a vast array of superlative donations, deposits, and purchases, including nitrate original camera negatives from Columbia, Warner Bros., Disney, and Universal, more than 20,000 reels of kinescoped television programs from NBC, more than 25,000 television commercials produced by the Coca-Cola Company, and a treasure trove of educational/industrial films in the Prelinger Archive, the American Archive of Factual Film, and the J. Fred and Leslie W. MacDonald Collection. And this is just the American material; our foreign holdings are also vast and impressive. Plus, we have print documentation such as photographs, posters, lobby cards, and the invaluable copyright descriptions.

Enlighten Thy Daughter (Scott Films, 1933)

In future posts we’ll dive more deeply into this ocean of content, sometimes focusing on specific collections but also exploring some of our more obscure corners. We’ll talk about how our collections have developed over time, how they’re described and preserved, and, of course, how they can be accessed.

In the meanwhile, here’s a entertaining film from the MacDonald Collection, an excellent example of how film has long been used to sell products. Blame it on Love (Wilding Picture Productions, 1940) tells the story of a nightclub singer-turned-homemaker whose marriage is threatened by her abysmal cooking skills…at least until she purchases the right appliances.



Blame it on Love (Wilding Picture Productions, 1940)

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