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When you look for archives, be aware that you will encounter two types of records.
Collection records describe whole collections or specific portions of collections of primary source material related to individuals, major events, places, organizations and so forth. These records give bibliographic descriptions of collections.
Finding aids (also called collection guides) are detailed inventories that reveal where a particular collection came from, how it's organized, and what it contains. For instance, a finding aid may tell you that drafts of a particular screenplay are in Box 42, Folder 3, of the Alan Smithee Papers.
ArchiveGrid contains close to half a million descriptive records of archival collections with a growing range of online finding aids or detailed collection guides and inventories. It contains both collection records and finding aids.
For an extensive list of reference sources, search Orbis with the following subject headings:
The only national arts organization devoted to film, television and video. The American Film Institute serves as a point of national focus and coordination for the many individuals and institutions concerned with the moving image as art.
Developed by the Library of Congress, this is a searchable database that includes motion picture collections, such as the Edison Companies and Early Animated Films, and there are films on special topics, including "Before and After the Great Earthquake and Fire: Early Films of San Francisco, 1897-1916", "Theodore Roosevelt: His Life and Times on Film", "America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894-1915", "The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures" and more.
An international center for the preservation, study, and exhibition of film and video with a particular focus on American independent and avant-garde cinema and its precursors found in classic European, Soviet and Japanese film. The website has information on the archives which includes regular screenings of works in their two NYC theaters.
This library contains thousands of digital movies uploaded by Archive users which range from classic full-length films, to daily alternative news broadcasts, to cartoons and concerts. Many of these videos are available for free download.
The AFF is part of the Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée (CNC). The site includes a searchable database. Many of the films in its collections have been digitized and may be viewed at the Bibliothèque nationale du France.
A diverse collection of over 800 historic and contemporary Hollywood and independent films; black & white and color, silent and sound; features, documentaries, dramatic and musical shorts, comedy shorts, newsreels and animations in 35mm, 16mm, 8mm, DVD, and videocassette formats.
The British Film Institute is the UK national agency with responsibility for encouraging the arts of film and television and conserving them in the national interest. It includes highly extensive archives of materials from around the world.
This collection includes news, sports, entertainment and more. The online database allows searches and orders to their database and from their archive collection. See also Gaumont Pathé (below), which is the French equivalent.
The Cinémathèque Française hosts the largest archive of films, movie documents, and film-related objects in the world. The Bibliothèque du Film (see above) merged with the Cinémathèque Française in 2007.
The Crawford Theater Collection in Yale's Manuscripts and Archives contains numerous film stills (such as the ones used throughout this guide) as well as materials on theater. The link above will open the online finding aid.
This database contains credits and holdings information for more than 407,000 silent-era films (features, short films, actualities and fictional works, mainly from before 1929) in the collections of the major international film archives.
International professional trade association representing film/audiovisual libraries, professional film researchers, producers and others working in the industry. The website provides assistance in finding footage and facilities.
The International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) brings together institutions dedicated to rescuing films both as cultural heritage and as historical documents. Founded in Paris in 1938, FIAF is a collaborative association of 165 film archives in over 65 countries whose purpose has always been to ensure the proper preservation and showing of motion pictures. The Yale Film Archive is an Associate of FIAF.
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. 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.
The Museum of the Moving Image is dedicated to educating the public about the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television, and digital media and to examining their impact on culture and society. It collects, preserves, and provides access to moving-image related artifacts, and it offers various types of public programming.
NHF collects and preserves film and videotape relating to northern New England, with a theater and study center located in Bucksport, Maine. The archive includes home movies, television news film and other broadcast productions, independent works, industrials, dramas, and other edited and unedited moving images.
Containing over 220,000 films and television programs, and 27 million feet of newsreel footage, the UCLA Film and Television Archive contains materials dating back to the 1890s, and it includes one of the largest and most respected repositories of television programming in the world.
WCFTR maintains over three hundred manuscripts collections from playwrights, television and motion picture writers, producers, actors, designers, directors and production companies. Materials preserved include fifteen thousand motion pictures, television shows and videotapes, two million still photographs and promotional graphics, and several thousand sound recordings. WCFTR collections on the American film industry are richest for 1930 through 1960.
The Yale Film Archive, an Associate of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), has a collection of more than 7,000 35mm and 16mm titles, including both print and pre-print holdings. A wide variety of genres and national cinemas are represented in the collection, from Hollywood features to experimental shorts, from documentaries to Bollywood musicals. The collection spans more than 120 years of cinema history, and includes films from around the globe as well as a number of films made by Yale alumni and about Yale University. Founded in 1982, the Film Archive traces its roots to film collections at Yale dating back to the 1960s, including the historic archives of a number of prominent film collectors. Many of the Film Archive’s preserved films are available for viewing online.