American Memory is a collection of nearly 150 collections containing millions of primary sources related to American culture and history. Below you will find tips for accessing and saving primary source items from the American Memory collections.
Viewing & saving prints, photographs, images of text documents
The Library of Congress American Memory collections contain hundreds of thousands of of prints, photographs, and images of text documents. While you will find some of these images in the Prints and Photographs collection, many are contained exclusively within American Memory. The digitized images are often available in several formats: .gif (thumbnail images), .jpg (often both lower and higher resolution) and .tiff, which offers the highest resolution. To view .tiff files, you will need special software (e.g., Adobe Photoshop® or a TIFF viewer program).
In a results list, click the image title or the image thumbnail to access the bibliographic record, then click the image thumbnail in the bibliographic record to access the full-size image file. Right click on the image to save/download it or right click on any available links to save a higher resolution file (higher resolution JPEG version or uncompressed archival TIFF version).
When saving an image file, it is best to rename it since many file names are just a series of numbers or numbers and letters; you may, for example, save the file using the title of the image.
Listening to & saving audio recordings
The American Memory collections contain numerous audio recordings of songs, speeches, and oral histories. Go to the Browse page and click Sound Recordings under the Browse Collections Containing header in the right column to review all the collections that contain audio files. You can listen to an audio recording on the web or you can download it to your computer. Most of the audio recordings are offered in multiple formats: .mp3, RealAudio® (.ram), and .wav.
In a results list, click the item title or the item icon to access the bibliographic record. Next, right click the button next to the desired format to save/download the file.
When saving an audio file, it is best to rename it since many file names are just a series of numbers, letters, or a combination of numbers and letters; you may, for example, save the file using the title of the item.
Please note that the RealAudio format the Library uses is streaming only, meaning that files are downloaded as they are played, so you will always need an Internet connection to play them. In addition, keep in mind that audio files can be quite large and can take a while to download, particularly if you are using a slower Internet connection.
Viewing & saving videos
To discover all of the American Memory collections that contain videos, go to the Browse page and click Motion Pictures under the Browse Collections Containing header in the right column. You can download videos to your computer or view them on the web. Be careful, though, because having every student try to access video files at the same time may put stress on a school server. Most of the videos in the American Memory collections are offered in RealMedia® (.ram), MPEG (.mpg), and QuickTime® (.mov) formats.
In a results list, click the item title or the filmstrip image to access the bibliographic record. Next, right click the link under the desired format to save/download the file. You can ignore the information listed in most video bibliographic records about downloading the files as it no longer applies (the Library started digitizing collections in 1994!).
When saving a video file, it is best to rename it since many file names are just a series of numbers, letters, or a combination of numbers and letters; you may, for example, save the file using the title of the item. Please note that because video files can be quite large, the Library sometime breaks up a video into several files.
Remember that the RealMedia format the Library uses is streaming only, meaning that files are downloaded as they are played, so you will always need an Internet connection to play them. In addition, keep in mind the video file size if you plan to embed it in another program (i.e., slideshow or ebook).
Bookmarking items from search result lists
When gathering primary sources you have searched for in American Memory, you will need to follow a particular procedure to bookmark an item’s bibliographic record or to save the URL for later viewing. Do NOT link to the URL in the browser address bar because that URL is a temporary link (see annotated screenshot above). Instead, scroll to the bottom of the bibliographic record and copy the URL (see annotated screenshot below) into a log file or paste the copied URL into the browser address bar, hit enter or return, wait for the web page to refresh, and then bookmark the page.
If the bibliographic record does not contain a URL or there is no bibliographic record, you will need to use a special procedure to find an item’s permanent URL. Once you have clicked through to an item result, for most browsers you can simply hold down the control/ctrl key + U (PC) or command key (Mac) + U or ctrl + alt +U or command + option + U. Alternatively, you can use the following browser menu options: Chrome™ – View > Developer > View Source; Firefox® – Tools > Web Developer > Page Source; Internet Explorer® – Page > View source; Safari – View > View Source.
When viewing the source code don’t be alarmed by what you see, it’s simply the HTML code for the web page. Just scroll to the bottom of the source code page and locate the URL below <!– The following URL will result in display of this document –> or next to <!–<persistent_url>. URLs from the Library begin with http:// and continue until there is a space; there are NO spaces in any URL. Please note that many URLs for American Memory collection items end with two parentheses.
Viewing & saving maps
The American Memory collections contain thousands of maps in a variety of categories, including cities and towns; conservation and environment; cultural landscapes; discovery and exploration; general; military battles and campaigns; and transportation and communication. No special software is required to view the maps online. The American Memory web interface allows you to navigate and zoom in with amazing detail on all types of maps in the collections.
This interface has been updated, however, with improvements to the zoom feature and an expanded number of download format options. Thus, while you can still search and view maps within American Memory, you will have the best user experience with the LOC.gov maps search. A post on viewing and saving maps in the new collection format will be available soon.