Primary Source Materials:
Moving Images and Sound Recordings

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Finding Moving Image and Sound Recordings at UCB

Non-Fiction Films and Television

TV News
TV News Transcripts
TV Commercials and TV Entertainment Programming
Political Speeches, Debates, Political Advertisements
Documentary Films / Stock Footage
Ethnographic Films
Ephemeral Films
Historic Psychology Films
Propaganda Films

Feature Films

Spoken Word Sound Recordings

Historic Speeches and Addresses (Online)
Historic Speeches and Addresses (on tape/disc)
Transcripts: Historic Speeches and Addresses

Oral Histories (audio)

Radio Programs

Musical Primary Sources

Moving image and sound recordings, including films, videos, phonograph recordings, audiotapes and audiocassettes, and, more recently, digital recordings, are among the most important primary historical sources of the past century:

Feature Films (the movies)can provide invaluable insights into the fantasies, biases, political attitudes, and material culture of the times in which they were created--the ways in which Hollywood both shapes and is shaped by the popular imagination.

Non-fiction Films/Videos such as documentaries, newsreels and TV news broadcasts, ethnographic films, home movies and other amateur recordings can similarly serve as unique cultural and historical "windows".

Sound recordings, ranging from radio broadcast recordings, to tape-recorded oral histories, to recorded popular songs of a particular era, are similarly rich primary source material.


Although movies and sound recordings seem to be everywhere these days, finding historical moving image and sound materials is very frequently a difficult task. Much of the most useful primary source media resides in specialized archives or is available only through costly commercial services, such as stock footage houses. Even current-day materials such as news broadcasts are often difficult to obtain for the average student researcher.

The following are some strategies for locating and viewing the primary source materials at UC Berkeley, or available online from most computers.

Non-Fiction Film and Television

The Media Resources Center collection includes a wide variety of primary source moving image materials, including newsreel footage, historical TV news broadcasts, propaganda films, political speeches and debates, and other recordings of historical events.


Before the advent of television and broadcast news, there were newsreels. Newsreels were 5 to 10 minute motion picture compilations highlighting the news of the day. These films were shown between feature films in motion picture theaters. Among the best-known early newsreel series were the Pathé-Journal, shown first in England and France, and the Pathé Weekly, produced for American audiences. The March of Time, produced in the United States by Time, Inc. was one of the most successful US newsreel of the 1930's and 40's.

Selected Newsreel Sources:

At UC Berkeley:

The UCB Media Resource Center collection includes a large sampling of newsreels from various producers. See Newsreel videography for a listing of these The collection also includes a broad sampling of newsreels and other reportage from various wars and world conflicts: See MRC's Peace & Conflict Videography for a listing of these.

Outside of UC Berkeley:

British Pathé Archives Previews from the entire 3500 hour British Pathe Film Archive which covers news, sport, social history and entertainment from 1896 to 1970.

Newsfilm Library (University of South Carolina). Includes clips of Movietone newsreels

UCLA Film and Television Archive The news collections, including the Hearst Newsreels and the News and Public Affairs collections, offer the researcher coverage of events from newsreels and national and local television news broadcasts. Materials must be viewed on-site at UCLA.

Counterculture Newsreels

In the 1960s, groups of young, activist filmmakers in several US cities turned out films which attempted to raise political awareness and further the aims of the radical left. These groups produced their films under the generic name Newsreel.

Newsreel holdings in the Media Resources Center are listed in the MRC Documentary Classics videography

TV News

Media Resources Center Collection

The Media Center collection includes selected historical news programming and news-related features:

CBS Reports and other CBS news programming from the 1960's and 70's

The Edward R. Murrow Collection (See It Now, Person to Person).

Vietnam War with Walter Cronkite.

September 11, 2001 news coverage (Fox, CNN)

For a complete listing of MRC historic news holdings, see the MRC TV News videography.

MRC also has selected "news magazine" programming including 60 Minutes and Frontline. To find these programs, use OskiCat and search by TITLE KEYWORD.

Vanderbilt University Television News Archive

The primary archive of network news broadcast programming in the US is Vanderbilt University's Television News Archives. The archive includes nightly news programs broadcast by the national television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) since August 5, 1968, and a daily news program from CNN since 1995.

The holdings of the archive can be searched at Tapes of individual broadcasts or compilations of news events can be rented for fee.

University of Virginia: Television News of the Civil Rights Era, 1959-1970

Television News of the Civil Rights Era, 1950-1970, aims to collect, digitize, and present in streaming video format over the World Wide Web television news footage from the period and to make these valuable materials available to scholars, teachers, and students. The current archive contains films from the nightly news from two local television stations in Virginia--WDBJ (CBS) Roanoke and WSLS (NBC) Roanoke. In this initial installment we have digitized over 230 films. This rare footage includes full speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, the governors of the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as original footage of school desegregation, public meetings, local debates over civil rights matters, and interviews with citizens.

TV News Transcripts

Lexis-Nexis Academic (UCB users only)
Selected transcripts from CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, and other broadcast sources.

ABC News
(includes Nightline, 20/20, Prime Time Live and other programming, 1980-)

Political Speeches, Debates, Campaigns and Conventions, Political Advertisements

The Media Resources Center Collections includes a large sampling of historic political primary source materials on videotape and DVD, including:
Campaign and Convention Coverage
Political Advertisements
Miscellaneous Political Speeches.

See also: Speeches/Addresses on tape and disc

See also the following sites, which include audio and video clips of political spots:
Museum of the Moving Image (Livingroom Candidate)
The 30-second Candidate (PBS)

See also the following sites, which video clips of historic political speeches and addresses:
Online University
The 30-second Candidate
The 30-second Candidate (PBS)

Documentary Films

Films that document "reality"--documentaries--have been made since the very beginning of motion pictures. Documentaries include films that chronicle historical events or the lives of historical personages; investigate social, political, or cultural issues; or tell personal stories. Older documentaries can serve as valuable primary resources: for example, Robert Drew's 1961 documentary Primary about the 1960 John Kennedy/Hubert Humphrey presidential campaigns, or the documentaries about wartime London by Harry Watt and Humphrey Jennings. Many of these early documentary works are listed on MRC's Documentary Classics videography.

It is also important to remember that many contemporary documentary films (particularly films on historical topics) incorporate a large amount of historical footage (sometimes also called "stock footage"). For example, the PBS series Eyes on the Prize, which deals with the history of the Civil Rights Movement, includes a tremendous amount of primary source film footage of various personalities and events related to the Movement. Similarly, the 13 hour series Vietnam: A Television History contains many hours of footage shot by US military personnel in Vietnam, as well as large amounts of footage taken from broadcast news of the period.

Unfortunately, it is often very difficult to determine whether historical footage has been used in a particular documentary film (the OskiCat catalog record and MRC web sites don't generally indicate this). MRC staff can assist you in this task (contact

Other Sources of Documentary/Stock Footage:

20th Century overviews and compilations. Documentaries in the Media Center Collection that provide an overview of notable events of the past century, generally illustrated with newsreel and broadcast news footage and other historical stock footage.

ITN/Reuters Stock Footage Library Includes scenes and sequences dealing with major world attractions and sites, natural and man-made disasters, animals, social and cultural events, occupations and trades, notable world news events, the environment. Media Center VIDEO/C 7729 - VIDEO/C 7735

Video Encyclopedia of the 20th Century. Large stock footage collection dealing with historical, political, and cultural subjects. Media Center VIDEODISC 6 (19 discs)

Films of Harvey Richards. Documentation of San Francisco Bay Area political activism in the 1960s and 70s. To locate this material, use OskiCat. Search for PERSONAL AUTHOR: Richards, Harvey. Description of the Richards Collection is also at:

Library of Congress - American Memory Project Historic moving image recordings of various facets of American history, life, and leisure.

The Internet Moving Image Archive Over 4,000 "ephemeral films" (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur films) made between 1930 and 1960. Available for preview online.

Ethnographic Films

Filmed anthropological investigations or field recordings of a particular culture or people are sometimes known as ethnographic films.Older ethnographic films are often useful primary sources for tracing the changing cultural notions and attitudes of Western cultures (generally the filmmaker's culture) toward non-Western cultures (generally the film subject's culture). Both current and historic ethnographic films are listed on MRC's Ethnography & Folk Culture videography.

Propaganda Films

Propaganda can take many forms, from the non-fiction films made during war time aimed at vilifying the enemy and boosting national moral, to films made by political or religious interest groups aimed at forcibly selling a particular point of view.

For a listing of non-fiction political, social, military, and religious propaganda films available in the library, see MRC's Propaganda videography.

Other (online) propaganda resource:
Internet Moving Image Archive

For a discussion of feature films as primary source propaganda works, see FEATURE FILMS below.

Ephemeral Films

Ephemeral films are non-theatrical films created for a particular time, place, function, and audience. Films that fall into this loosely-defined category include instructional, educational, industrial, commercial, and public relations films. Propaganda films can, in a sense, also be considered ephemeral. These films are called "ephemeral" because they have historically had a relatively short shelf-life. Archivists such as Rick Prelinger and others have fairly recently begun collecting and preserving these films as social and cultural artifacts. A portion of the Prelinger Archives are available for online viewing and downloading via the Internet Moving Image Archive.

The Media Center has a growing collection of ephemeral films, from sex education and drivers' education films of the 1950s and 1960s to educational films on manners and morals.

The majority of MRC's ephemeral films are listed on MRC's Propaganda: Social and Religious videography.

MRC also has several large collections of industrial (ephemeral) films from the 1940s, 50s, and 60's dealing with the urban and suburban environment, including American Suburbia, and Historical Travel U.S. See MRC's Environmental Design videography for content details.

Historic Psychology Films

The MRC collection includes a number of large compilations of historical films produced by academic institutions, the military, and corporations dealing with mental health, mental illness, and various other topics related to psychology. These films can be particularly useful for observing changing notions, practices, and cultural prejudices related to mental health. See MRC's Psychology videography for content details.

Television Commercials and TV Entertainment Programming

Like feature films, television programming can provide interesting insights into changing cultural attitudes, fashions, and fads. The MRC collection includes a large sampling of both current and historical TV commercials and programs, from animated features to westerns.

Feature Films

The movies have always been much more than mere entertainment. Feature films can also be viewed as historical and cultural artifacts--primary sources--that can provide invaluable insights into the fantasies, fears, prejudices, fads, and material culture of the times in which they were created.

The Media Resources Center(Moffitt Library, 1st floor) has compiled extensive topical and theme listings of the feature films (on video and DVD)in the MRC collection. These listings can assist you in finding films that demonstrate the ways in which the movies of a particular era deal with a theme or issue, or the ways in which these films represent a particular segment of American culture. Examples of these listings include:

The Representation of Race, and Ethnicity in the Movies
The Representation of Gays and Lesbians in the movies
Representation of Teens/Schools in the Movies
Representation of various occupations and in the movies (e.g. Lawyers, Journalists, Sports)

The MRC collection also has a representative sample of both current and older films by genre (for example: comedies, musicals, gangster films, film noir, westerns, horror films). A separate listing of films by genre is available at the MRC web site. The MRC site also has listings of films by decade.

To identify Hollywood feature films on a particular theme or issue, or films which were made in a particular era, it is sometimes also useful to locate books on the topic. For example:

Bergman, Andrew. We're in the Money: Depression America and its Films New York : Harper & Row, 1972, [c1971]

Hollywood's Indian: The Portrayal of the Native American in Film. Peter C. Rollins and John E. O'Connor, editors. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, c1998.

Richards, Larry. African American Films Through 1959: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Filmography. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, c1998.

Cohan, Steven. Masked men: masculinity and the movies in the fifties. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c1997.

Some strategies for searching for books on film topics are outlined at

Sound Recordings

Historic Speeches and Addresses (Online)

American Memory Project (Library of Congress)
Audio and moving images recordings relating to the history and culture of the United States. Audio recordings include folk music field recordings, recorded slave narratives and other oral histories, historical recordings of vaudeville and popular entertainment, speeches and important statements by US presidents.

The American Presidency Project (UC Santa Barbara)
Includes audio and video recordings of selected presidental speeches and addresses

American Rhetoric (Online Speech Bank)
An index to and growing database of 5000+ full text, audio and video (streaming) versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, other recorded media events, and a declaration or two.

American Presidency Project (UC Santa Barbara)
Includes a small collection of historical presidental audio recordings.

Anti-Vietnam War Protests in the San Francisco Bay Area & Beyond
A chronology of the Vietnam war and war protests that includes audio and video recordings of notable events and speeches of the Vietnam war era.

Black Abolitionist Archive (University of Detroit Mercy Libraries)
Includes interpretive contemporary readings of key speeches and documents

Black Panther Party Recordings
Includes on-site recordings of Black Panther speeches and events, interviews with Black Panther Party leaders, as well as current and historic radio programs documenting the BPL.

Free Speech Movement Recordings
Includes on-site recordings of FSM speeches and events, interviews with FSM leaders and UC Berkeley campus administrators, as well as radio programs (1964-1966) documenting the FSM.

Historic UCB Lectures and Events
Recordings of notable lectures, poetry readings, and other events at UC Berkeley, 1956 to present.

History & Politics Out Loud
A searchable audio archive of significant political and historical events and personalities of the twentieth century.

History Channel Speech Archives
A broad sampling of speeches, interviews, and historic events ("Words that Changed the World")

John F. Kennedy Library and Museum
Includes Kennedy/Nixon debates; various speeches and addresses on Civil Rights; innaugural address. Also includes online speeches/addresses of Robert F. Kennedy.

Richard M. Nixon, "Checkers Speech"

The OYEZ Project
Online recordings of significant Supreme Court oral arguments

Radio Broadcasts 1939-1943

Richard M. Nixon Watergate tapes

Truman Presidental Museum and Library Audio Collection

Vincent Voice Library
Historic recordings of US Presidents

Voices of World War II: Experiences from the Front and at Home
Includes excerpts from radio broadcast, popular music, presidental speeches and addresses.

White House web site
Includes audio of speeches, addresses, and presidental statements.

Historic Speeches and Addresses (on audio tape and disc)

To locate historic speeches, addresses, and interviews by/with individuals, use OskiCat :

1. Search for: PERSONAL AUTHOR KEYWORD (name of individual)
2. Limit by: pf: Publication Format [keyword]: SOUND RECORDINGS
3. Limit by: lo: Location [keyword]: MEDIA CENTER (AVMC)

Selected Speeches, Addresses, and Interviews on audiocassette and audio compact disc in the Media Resources Center (separate list)

Historic Speeches and Addresses: Transcripts

American Rhetoric (Online Speech Bank)

Voices of Democrary: The U.S. Oratory Project (University of Maryland)

The American Presidency Project (UC Santa Barbara)
Includes transcripts of State of the Union addresses from 1790 on and other important primary source presidential documents.

Presidential Rhetoric
Includes transcripts of current and historical speeches and addresses

The History Place
Includes transcripts of important international historic speeches

Oral Histories (Audio)

American Folklife Center Includes historic folk music recordings, oral histories and interviews.

Fortunoff Video Archive of Holocaust Testimonies
Also includes audio recordings. A collection of over 4,200 videotaped interviews with witnesses and survivors of the Holocaust, the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies is part of Manuscripts and Archives, at Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University.

Grass Roots: An Oral History of the American People. Media Resources Center SOUND/C 150

Library of Congress - American Memory Project

Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation. Media Resources Center SOUND/C 1372

Sounds of Vietnam

The Vietnam Project (Texas Tech University)

Voices of the Shoah: Remembrances of the Holocaust
Media Center: SOUND/D 191
Audio documentary of the Holocaust as told by survivors and witnesses. Drawn from more than 180 interviews recorded between 1988 and 1998, the stories gathered her testify to the horrors of the Shoah as well as to the immeasurable strength of the human spirit.

Radio Programs

The Media Center contains a small collection of classic radio programs from the 1930's and 1940's on tape and disc. These recordings can be a valuable primary source for studying the popular culture (including advertising) and news of the day.

Other (online) radio resources:

America in the 1930s (American Studies Program, University of Virginia)
Includes clips from movies and radio broadcasts of the 1930s, as well as examples of print and material culture.

Library of American Broadcasting (University of Maryland)
Includes bibliographies, sound bites, and other information related to the history of broadcasting.

Historic Audio and Video
Clips from classic radio programs and news

Radio Days
Clips from classic radio programs and news

Musical Primary Sources

American Memory Project (Library of Congress)
Audio and moving images recordings relating to the history and culture of the United States. Audio recordings include folk music field recordings, historical recordings of vaudeville and popular entertainment.

Chants de la guerre d'Espagne (Songs of the Spanish Civil War). Media Resources Center SOUND/D 49

Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Songs of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. Media Resources Center SOUND/D 120

The Panic is On: The Great American Depression as Seen by the Common man.
This multifaceted set communicates both the painful hard times of the Great Depression and the grace and strong will of the common man in confronting it. Period newsreel and documentary film footage convey the feel of the times. Classic musical recordings reflect the popular mood of the day. The booklet includes photographs, letters, and first hand recollections. Contents: DVD: Give a man a job (with Jimmy Durante) -- Life in the thirties -- Mr. Zero gives to the needy -- The Boswell Sisters perform for legislators -- The unemployed march for relief -- A Zuni Indian offers perspective on the Depression -- Millions of us -- Dance marathons -- The Jazz Age -- A debutante sells her chinchilla coat -- Knitting sweaters for the unemployed with Fanny Brice -- Union textile workers strike -- The plow that broke the plains -- The river -- Mr. Zero evicted -- Work pays America -- We work again -- Our daily bread -- The power and the land. CD: (Everything's gonna be) O.K. America / Art Kassel and his Kassels in the Air -- The panic is on / Hezekiah Jenkins -- If I ever get a job again / Dick Robertson and his Orchestra -- NRA blues / Bill Cox -- The clouds will soon roll by / Eddy Duchin and his Orchestra -- Nobody knows you (When you're down and out) / Bessie Smith -- We're in the money (The gold digger's song) / Charlie Palloy -- The great dust storm / Woody Guthrie -- Headin' for better times / Ted Lewis and his Band -- Bad times blues / Barbecue Bob -- Brother can you spare a dime? / Charlie Palloy and his Orchestra -- Bread line blues / "Slim" Smith -- Welfare store blues / Sonny Boy Williamson -- Franklin Roosevelt's back again / Bill Cox -- I can't go to the poor house / Dick Robertson -- Old age pension check / Roy Acuff and his Crazy Tennesseans -- When my stocks come tumbling down / Fields and Hall -- Down on Penny's farm / The Bentley boys -- A tale of the ticker / Frank Crumit -- In the fall of '29 / W. Lee O'Daniel and his Light Crust Doughboys -- Starvation blues / Charlie Jordan -- Cheer up! Smile! Nertz! / Eddie Cantor -- Good old times (Are coming back again) / Dick Robertson. 120 min. DVD X1770

Rhapsodies in Black: Music and Words from the Harlem Renaissance. Media Resources Center SOUND/D 87

Sing for Freedom: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Its Songs. Media Resources Center SOUND/D 118

Songs for Political Action Media Resources Center SOUND/D 75 - 79
Assembled by folk song authorities Ron Cohen and Dave Samuelson, contains nearly 300 songs recorded from 1926 to 1953. The complete works of the Almanac Singers, and many rare and unissued tracks of Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Earl Robinson and other legendary Peoples Songsters are among the many highlights of this comprehensive set. From the only known recordings of Charles and Ruth Seeger to soundtruck recordings made for the 1948 Henry Wallace presidential campaign.

A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings Music Library MUSI CD14032
For other primary source recordings of folk music, consult the Music Library.

You can also try searching OskiCat: Search by AUTHOR NAME:

Library of Congress. Recording Laboratory or
Archive of Folk Song (U.S.)

Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs, 1960-1966. Media Resources Center SOUND/D 119

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