Library of Congress gives to History

Network scores 130 million items from archive

The Library of Congress is opening up its storehouse of 130 million items to the History Channel for documentary films, website videos and text and educational materials for classrooms throughout the U.S.

Abbe Raven, president and CEO of A&E TV Networks, which includes History Channel, said, “The library’s mission is to get all of its resources out to the American public, and we can help with our broad access on TV and online.”

History Channel reaches 96.5 million homes, and History Intl.’s circulation is 46.8 million. The library will also work with History.com and two other cable networks: History En Espanol and Military History Channel.

To avoid the criticism by independent filmmakers and scholars two years ago over a deal between Showtime and the Smithsonian Institution, History is stressing that its Library of Congress deal is not exclusive.

With the Smithsonian, docu producers asking to use the institution’s collections said they were being steered toward Showtime even though they might have arrangements with other networks.

Raven said that won’t happen with History Channel. “Documentary filmmakers who need help from the library will get complete access,” she said.

But one of History’s goals, Raven said, is to draw on the wealth of library material “to use our expertise in filmmaking and storytelling to create specific shows for History. We’ll look for the story behind the artifacts in the library.” These programs will be co-branded by History and the library.

“The library has the contents of what was in Lincoln’s pockets the night he was assassinated, including a Confederate dollar bill,” she said. A filmmaker studying the events surrounding the murder might delve into the archives to find out why the slain president was carrying confederate money.

“There are millions of stories waiting to be told,” said James Billington, Librarian of Congress. History Channel “will help us tell some of them.”

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