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Credits and Permissions | Address and Hours


The Prints & Photographs Reading Room provides public access to the collections and services of the Prints & Photographs Division (P&P) and is open to patrons conducting research utilizing the Division's collections. Unique in their scope and richness, the Prints & Photographs collections today number over 13.6 million images. These include photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. While international in scope, the collections are particularly rich in materials produced in, or documenting the history of, the United States and the lives, interests and achievements of the American people. An overview of P&P collections and services is available via World Wide Web at:

Service in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room

Full use of the collections can only be made with the help of Division staff who provide assistance in understanding the Division's many different cataloging/finding systems and who oversee the safe use of the wide variety of materials which are served.
  • Reference librarians are on duty in the Reading Room to assist patrons.
  • Patrons involved in complex research are urged to call the Reading Room and discuss their search before making a visit.
  • Arrangements must be made when patrons expect to view more than 15 original items from the Division's collections of posters, drawings, master photographs, and fine prints (this does not include documentary photographs, the bulk of the Division's holdings); when requesting unprocessed material; when requesting fragile material requiring supervised handling or special preparation, such as many architectural drawings; for visits by a class or study group; or when the number of images required by a project will far exceed average use (e.g., searching thousands of images for digital publication).
  • Tours and orientations are available.

Registration Is Required & Special Rules Are in Force

  • Patrons must obtain a Library of Congress Reader Identification Card before using the P&P Reading Room. To obtain the card, patrons must first complete an online application and submit proof of identity and address. This is done in Room 140 of the Madison Building, which is conveniently located near the entrance to the building and on the way to the P&P Reading Room.
  • In general, children are not allowed to conduct research or accompany adults as they conduct research in the Division.
  • Patrons may not bring belongings other than loose sheets of paper into the Reading Room. Although a cloakroom room is available in Room 140, next to the Reader Registration station, researchers may prefer to use the lockers located in the P&P Reading Room. Patrons planning to use laptop or notebook computers should bring battery packs, because there are few electrical outlets in the Reading Room.
  • Patrons must agree to follow special rules for the safe handling of visual materials.
  • As a preservation measure, the Library serves "surrogates" (e.g., digital, videodisc, or, microfilm images) in lieu of original images when such ready reference copies exist.

Service from a Distance

Catalogs and Electronic Access

  • There is no comprehensive published catalog describing the Prints & Photographs Division's holdings of more than 13 million items. Many materials are cataloged in groups, with no itemized listing, and others are not listed in a catalog, but rather are made available through "browsing" files in the Reading Room.
  • A portion of the holdings is available on the Internet. Of special interest are the over one million items (as of 2005) from several of the Division's collections that are represented by catalog records and accompanying digital images in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog; new records and digital images are added continuously. Access to the online catalog, as well as to illustrated guides, reference aids, and other information about the Division's collections and services is available through the Reading Room's Home Page on World Wide Web. The address is:

Limited service is available by email, fax, mail and telephone

  • Inquiries about collections and services may be submitted via the Ask A Librarian service, which provides an online form for sending reference staff questions. An initial response is sent within five business days and inquiries generally are answered fully within seven business days after receipt. Requests made by mail and FAX are answered in order of receipt within two weeks of receipt. The reference staff working in the Reading Room answer telephone calls when they are not busy with in-person researchers. Therefore, telephone service is limited to only those questions that can be easily handled by phone. See our Contact Information page for further information.
  • The Division's collections are archival in nature and are made available chiefly for original research. The staff cannot conduct lengthy searches, make editorial selection of images, produce long lists of images, undertake extensive research projects, or conduct appraisals. Requests for specific images credited to the Library of Congress can be handled when limited to fifteen or fewer items in the calendar year. Researchers requiring additional services may wish to hire a freelance researcher in the Washington, D.C., area to work on their behalf.

Obtaining Copies

  • Copies of images may be obtained from the Library's Photoduplication Service, which is a separate part of the Library (telephone 202-707-5640; email: In general, orders must be accompanied by reproduction numbers or call numbers that are used to identify the material being ordered. It takes from 3 to 6 weeks to get copies.
  • Other vendors also sell quality copies of selected images. [View list of vendors]
  • Xerox machines are available in the Division's Reading Room, but many images are too old or fragile to be xeroxed. The staff does not provide receipts for costs incurred in making xerox copies.
  • Basic hand-held camera copying that does not require lights or other equipment or special handling of the images is allowed as an alternative to xeroxing.
  • Digitized images appearing in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog and on the web site can be downloaded at public reading room workstations. Higher resolution images may require use of a zip disk (100 or 250 MB) formatted for use in IBM compatible machines or a USB flash drive formatted for IBM compatible machines, as the size of many images exceeds the space available on diskettes. It is not possible to download to CDs at the public workstations.
  • Scanning equipment is not allowed because of handling concerns and the light they emit. Digital cameras are allowed (see "Simple hand-held camera copying" above).

Credits and Permissions

  • When material photographed from the Library's collections is reproduced in a publication, the Library requests that the negative or transparency number be published with credit to the Library, such as: "Library of Congress, LC-USZ62- 13459."
  • The Library does not grant or deny permission concerning the use of images. While many images are unrestricted, it is not true that all images in the Prints & Photographs Division are in the public domain. Patrons need to be aware of the several kinds of rights which might apply: copyright, donor restrictions, privacy rights, publicity rights, licensing and trademarks.

See Reference Information for a list of documents relating to service and copying policies, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

Address and Hours

Mailing address: Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540-4730
Location: James Madison Memorial Building, Room 337, First St. and Independence Ave., S.E.
Metro Station: Capitol South [blue/orange lines], 1st and C. Streets, S.E.
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Closed on federal holidays)
Note: No materials are pulled after 4:00.
Telephone: (202) 707-6394 Reference Staff; (202) 707-6647 FAX (Note: Letters and faxes answered in order of receipt.)

Last revised: March 2006.
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  July 8, 2008
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