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Television, radio and documentary film

Primary sources for historical research

Finding documentary films at Princeton

To find documentaries that Princeton University Library has on CD or DVD, search the Main Catalog by the Title of the film e.g. "The Plow that broke the Plains" or the name of the director as Author e.g. "Riefenstahl, Leni".

Princeton Public Library is also a good source of commercially-released documentaries.

There are several large online collections to which Princeton subscribes:

American History in Video
Digital collection of newsreels from 1942-1964, plus television documentaries from the History Channel and elsewhere. Includes transcripts.

World History in Video
Digital collection of BBC, PBS and independent documentaries covering world history. Includes transcripts.

Ethnographic Video Online
Covers every region of the world and features the work of many of the most influential documentary filmmakers of the 20th century.

Covers silent features, serials, and shorts from the 1890s to the 1930s.

And there are some useful free or fee-based web sites:

youtube has many short clips from documentaries, and sometimes longer versions.

filmarchives online has European documentaries in several languages, plus a catalog of video held at a number of European film archives.


There are some compilations of early documentary films:

  • The Lumiè€re Brothers’ first films [videorecording]. Kino International; [presented by] the Lumiè€re Brothers’ Association. New York: Kino on Video; Chatsworth, CA: Image Entertainment [distributor] c1998.
    Humanities Resource Center (VIDL): Video Coll. East Pyne: DVD 236
  • Landmarks of early film. [videorecording] [S.l.] : Film Preservation Associates; [Chatsworth, Calif.]: Image Entertainment [distributor], c1994.
    Humanities Resource Center (VIDL): Video Coll. East Pyne: DVD 14 & DVD 13
  • Treasures from American film archives: 50 preserved films. Produced by the National Film Preservation Foundation.
    Mendel Music Library (MUS): DVD 775 & DVD 776

Reference: documentary film

Encyclopedia of the documentary film. Ian Aitken, editor. New York: Routledge, 2006.
Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR) Firestone PN1995.9.D6 E53 2006

Documentary: a history of the non-fiction film. Erik Barnouw. 2nd rev. ed. New York : Oxford University Press, 1993.
Firestone Library (F) PN1995.9.D6 B37 1993

Documentary film: a very short introduction. Patricia Aufderheide. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, c2007.
Firestone Library (F) PN1995.9.D6 A94 2007

A new history of documentary film. Jack C. Ellis and Betsy A. McLane. New York: Continuum, 2005.
Firestone Library (F) PN1995.9.D6 E46 2005

100 documentary films. Barry Keith Grant & Jim Hillier. Basingstoke, Hampshire [England] ; New York : Palgrave Macmillan : London : Published on behalf of British Film Institute, c2009.
Firestone Library (F) PN1995.9.D6 G73 2009