The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States – and extensive materials from around the world – both on site and online. It is a central resource for America’s filmmakers with its extensive collection of historic moving images, sound recordings, photographs, manuscripts, maps and more. The Library is home to both the National Recording Preservation Board and the National Film Preservation Board, ensuring public access to America’s sound recording and film heritage – critical assets for producing history documentary film.

The Better Angels Society

The Better Angels Society preserves America’s history by ensuring historically significant films in the Ken Burns tradition are completed, broadcast, promoted and shared in ways that reach and inform as many people as possible. This is critically important today as more Americans get their history from documentary films. Growing digitized collections present an enriching opportunity for this genre of filmmaking. The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film celebrates exemplary work in documentary filmmaking, provides deserved recognition for films representing a standard of excellence and supports film projects that will live on as enduring educational assets.

The Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation

The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film is made possible through a generous donation by Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine. The Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation invests in philanthropic efforts directed at leveling the playing field for individuals and families. The Foundation supports organizations that strengthen society through education, research, innovation, public policy, direct service, and advocacy. As ever more Americans learn history watching historical documentary films, the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation makes possible this Library of Congress national prize with The Better Angels Society. The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film will support the creation of exemplary films that live on as enduring educational assets for all Americans, enriching the democracy and informing our understanding of the American story.

Why This Prize Matters

The establishment of the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film reflects the critical role history documentary film plays today in educating Americans about the American story. The Prize is bestowed by Librarian Carla Hayden and filmmaker Ken Burns who will co-chair a national jury of esteemed scholars, filmmakers and journalists. The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film joins other awards bestowed by the Library of Congress including the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the prize for Fiction and the Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity.

The 2022 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film Ceremony will be held on October 18, 2022.


Ken Burns has long supported National History Day, which for decades has conducted an annual contest in which students compete for awards in a variety of categories, including documentary. The Better Angels Society is sponsoring National History Day individual documentary awards for middle and high school students. In addition to the array of honors already offered through National History Day, individual documentary winners will receive a Next Generation Angels Award and win a trip to Washington D.C. that will feature screenings of their documentaries, and a visit to the Library of Congress’ film archives.

The trip culminates with students being recognized by Ken Burns and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden at the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film Dinner.


The enormous size and variety of its collections make the Library of Congress a rich resource for documentary filmmakers. Comprised of more than 170 million items in virtually all formats, languages and subjects, these collections are the single most comprehensive accumulation of human expression ever assembled. The direct links below will take you to just a few of the expansive collections that could provide valuable material for your project. 

Explore thousands of digitized manuscripts, maps, photographs and more. Use the navigation tool to focus your search by format or topic.

Hundreds of hours of motion pictures from the Library’s collection of more than 1.8 moving images, from home movies to newsreels covering a period of more than 100 years, from 1890 to 1999.

Access and information services for the Library’s vast collection of moving images.

Access and information services for the Library’s vast collection of audio holdings.

For specific questions and reference inquiries.

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