Friday, December 16, 2016

From the Archives: Library of Congress collects pornographic films, violent video games

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on November 4, 2011. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016. I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Library of Congress collects pornographic films, violent video games

“There are pornographic films in the Library of Congress,” stated Gregory A. Lukow, chief of the Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound (MBRS) Division, in response to a question posed to him at the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville.

In fact, X-rated videos are in the Library’s collection at the insistence of Congress itself.

Lukow revealed the Library's responsibility to collect erotic movies after a November 3rd screening of a new documentary film about the National Film Registry and the Library’s film preservation efforts called These Amazing Shadows.

He was fielding questions with his colleague, George Willeman, head of the Nitrate Film Vaults at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center’s Packard Campus in Culpeper, Virginia, just about 45 miles north of Charlottesville on U.S. Route 29.

'No laughing matter'

During the Q&A session, a woman in the audience asked, “Do you have X-rated films, like Behind the Green Door, which is really a classic depiction of what our society is?”

The short answer, Lukow said, was “Yes.”

The reason there are X-rated films in the Library of Congress, he explained, is that the institution aims to be a “comprehensive collection of [the] world’s knowledge and America’s creativity,” which elicited laughter from the audience.

More laughter followed when Lukow said, “This is always the punchline: We are the Library of Congress,” putting emphasis on the word “Congress.”

“That’s no laughing matter,” he said in response to the chuckles, pointing out that, “in the 1970s, Congress was intensely interested in pornography,” which led to the Library’s collecting examples of the genre for use by congressional committees looking into obscene materials.

Not just Pac-Man

In more recent years, too, the Library of Congress has collected video games.

“We collect video games fairly comprehensively now at the Packard Campus,” Lukow said, noting that “for many years before we took over the selection responsibility, the Library collected two kinds of video games: those that were educational for young children and the most violent, because (it was felt) that’s what Congress would be most interested in.”

The 24th annual Virginia Film Festival continues in several venues across Charlottesville through Sunday, November 6. It will include appearances by director Oliver Stone, actress Sissy Spacek, and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who will discuss, respectively, the films JFK, Badlands, and The People vs. Larry Flynt. A full schedule of screenings is available at

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