Film History Sources

Primary Sources

Collective Catalog of American Films

American Film Institute Catalog covers the history of American cinema comprehensively from 1893 to 1975, with full or short records for films from 1976 to present. Every film produced on American soil or by American production companies is indexed. In Advanced Search, under Genre, you can limit to Documentary.

Harvard Collections

To find videos in HOLLIS by subject, go to HOLLIS Advanced Search Library Catalog.  Put in your search terms and sdjust Resource Type to Videos/Film.  Search. In the Refine column on the right, for streaming video, as opposed to DVDs, etc., select Show only: Online.  Under Form / Genre you can select particular kinds of films/videos.  Example.

Most films held by the Harvard Film Archive (HFA) now have records in HOLLIS. An overview of HFA collections is available. For questions about HFA contact Reed Lowrie.

The Film Study Library on the 4th floor of Sever Hall has a large, non-circulating collection of videos which is not listed in HOLLIS. Viewing facilities available.

Films Online

Streaming Video @ Harvard

Many films in the Library of Congress collection are available through American Memory and the Prelinger Archives of "ephemeral" (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) films in the Internet Archive (select Search Moving Images).

African Online Digital Library includes video interviews with eminent African scholars, religious leaders, and activists.

Digitalia Film Library offers streaming video of films and documentaries from Latin America, Europe and North America. Special collections feature Argentine, French, and North American classic cinema.

Film Platform offers documentary films on a wide variety of subjects.  There are collections on several topics. Searches can be filtered by topic, country of production, and language.

Filmmakers Library Online includes documentaries in the humanities and social science, including race and gender studies, human rights, globalization and global studies, multiculturalism, international relations, criminal justice, the environment, bioethics, health, political science and current events, psychology, arts, literature.

HistoryMakers: African American oral video history archive

Ideas Roadshow offers in-depth conversations with a wide variety of scholars and scientists

InaMédiaPro offers French news reels, documentaries, radio shows, presidential addresses, etc. Mostly from 1949 to present, with select reels from the early 20th Century. User guide.

Latin America in Video. Issues include human rights, violence, immigration, illiteracy, popular culture, and political history.”

The March of Time: Series of Time Inc. newsreels, produced 1935-1967, presented as a blend of confrontational journalism and docudrama, often using actors to stage events, presented in online streaming video. Synchronized, searchable transcripts run alongside each video; playlist functionality lets users create, annotate, and organize clips and include links to other content; permanent URLs let users cite and share videos, playlists, and clips.

New World Cinema includes independent features and shorts, 1990–present

PBS Video Collection offers  streaming access from PBS documentary films and series, including American Experience, American Masters, Empires, Frontline, History Detectives, NOVA, Odyssey, films of Ken Burns and Michael Wood.

World History in Video offers over 1,750 documentaries, covering antiquity to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

World Newsreels Online, 1929-1966. English, French or Japanese with English transcripts.

Internet Archive includes films, radio audio clips, news clips, educational films, advertisements, industry films, etc.

European Film Gateway offers photos, posters, programmes, periodicals, censorship documents, feature and documentary films, newsreels and other materials preserved in European film archives and cinémathèques.


Hollywood power stats, by Christopher Reynolds. Valley Village, CA: Cineview Pub., 1993, 1994, 1995 eds.
Not at Harvard


Library Guide: Film Periodicals The Online Radio & TV Library offers an enormous collection of radio/TV magazines.

ProQuest - Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive

Archival Collections

Filmarchives Online accesses catalogue information from European film archives.

Public Research Centers & Archives (Library of Congress): A comprehensive listing of Public Moving Image Archives and Research Centers from around the world

Library of Congress Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division holds vast numbers of films. Most are not available online, but copies can sometimes be purchased. If the film you want is not evident on the LC website, enquire directly as the collection is not fully cataloged.

Further Information

African Studies: African Video Collection

Film Research at Harvard

Film Studies Research Guide (Yale)

Reel Research: Research Guide for Film Studies

Slavic and East European Film Collection at Harvard

Visual Media Resources

Secondary Sources, Background and Context

Chronologies, Dictionaries, Directories, Encyclopedias, Handbooks

Reference books about film and television are available in the Loker Reading Room. Browse HOLLIS by using Other Call Number:  RR 2971) 

The encyclopedia of novels into film, by John C. Tibbetts et al. 2nd ed. NY: Facts on File, 2005, 586 p.
Lamont | REFERENCE | PN1997.85 .T54 2005
Widener | RR 2971.21.30

The film encyclopedia: the complete guide to film and the film industry, by Ephraim Katz ; rev. by Ronald Dean Nolen. 6th ed. NY: Collins, 2008, 1567 p.
Widener | RR 2971.28

Biographical Sources

The new biographical dictionary of film, by David Thomson. 5th ed. London: Little, Brown, 2010, 1074 p.
Widener | RR 2971.32