|The Library of Congress > American Memory|
|Scope of the Collections
The sheer vastness and variety of Prints and Photographs Division holdings, which comprise an estimated 13.5 million items, make the division a rich resource for researchers in women's history.
Chronological and Geographical Strengths
Images for Commercial Purposes
The collections encompass the kinds of pictorial materials routinely found in historical societies, government archives, and art museums. Unlike many of these institutions, however, the Prints and Photographs Division stands out for its mammoth holdings of visual materials originally created for commercial purposes, including images intended for sale directly to the public or those designed for use in publications or advertising.
The Library's relationship to the Copyright Office has contributed greatly to this strength. Starting in the 1870s, artists and publishers who wished to protect their rights in a pictorial work deposited copies of it in the U.S. Copyright Office. By no means did all of the deposited images enter the Library's collections, but hundreds of thousands of visual items were retained and are now part of the division's holdings. The variety of images acquired in this way include the following:
The Prints and Photographs Division has also, over the years, accumulated a wealth of graphic images created for use in magazines, books, and newspapers, as well as vast collections of photographs, referred to as “photo morgues,” assembled by news photo agencies and by three major American publications:
Other Sources of Images
Although images designed for commercial or publication purposes are a particular strength of the collections, pictures of many types and depicting many subjects can be found in the division's holdings, acquired from a great variety of sources.
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