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Television, radio and documentary film

Primary sources for historical research

What's in this guide

This guide covers resources for finding historical broadcasts and moving images. The first documentary films were made in the 1890s, radio transmissions begin in the 1920s, and the first television broadcasts were in the late 1940s. Archiving of this material is unpredictable, and the researcher in pursuit of audio, video or transcripts will need patience and persistence.

This guide does not cover fiction in film, radio or television. But see Audio/Visual Electronic Resources for the Arts and Humanities.

Useful subject headings

To find material about broadcasting and film, try searching these subjects in the Main Catalog:


Motion picture journalism

Documentary films

  • Actualities (Motion pictures)
  • Industrial films
  • Ethnographic films

Documentary-style films

Television broadcasting

Television advertising