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August 2, 2007

Library of Congress Acquires Media Pioneer's Collection

Considered a master of the electronic media, Tony Schwartz changed the face of radio and television advertising by creating socially conscientious campaigns such as the nation’s first anti-smoking ad, which led the tobacco industry to voluntarily stop advertising on television and radio. Those and other materials are part of the vast archives of sound recordings and moving images created and collected by the renowned New York City sound documentarian, producer, author and teacher, which were recently purchased by the Library of Congress.

The Tony Schwartz Collection will be housed at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation (, which is under the purview of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. A complete compilation of Schwartz’s work from 1947 to 1999, the collection parallels the growth of modern audio technology and the broadcast industry by documenting American life and culture during the latter half of the 20th century.

"The collection is a treasure trove of unpublished audio-visual material to be explored and discovered by researchers, scholars and patrons," said James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress. "By acquiring and preserving this collection for the American people, the Library of Congress will serve generations of historians, archivists, documentary producers and the general public seeking to experience the voices, sounds and images of post-war America."

Schwartz’s life-long interest in people, sound, music and events led him to record urban folklore and soundscapes in his New York City neighborhood and to collect similar recordings from other folklorists and collectors around the world. He adopted audio tape technology while it was in its infancy in the late 1940s, and over the next 55 years he assembled a vast collection of audio-visual materials.

Later in his life, Schwartz became a much sought-after media consultant. He taught and lectured on the use of media in communications, advertising and product placement, and he advocated the grassroots use of media for issue-oriented and public service campaigns. His nationwide anti-smoking ad campaign is considered one of the most successful examples of his work in this area, although he probably is most famous for creating and producing the famous so-called "Daisy" television spot for Lyndon Johnson’s presidential campaign that warned of the dangers of nuclear arms.

Notable elements of the Tony Schwartz Collection include:

  • some 30,000 folk songs, poems, conversations, stories and dialects from his surrounding neighborhood and 46 countries around the world;
  • recordings of his own radio program, which he produced for 27 years on New York City radio stations WBAI and WNYC;
  • political campaign ads for radio and television; and
  • recordings and videos of more than 15,000 radio and television ads for commercial products and services.

The Tony Schwartz Collection will join the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division’s holdings of some 5.7 million items (1.2 million moving images, nearly 3 million sound recordings and 1.5 million related items such as manuscripts, posters and screenplays) at the Library’s new state-of-the-art Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va.

The Packard Campus, with a construction cost of more than $150 million, represents the largest-ever private gift to the Library of Congress and one of the largest ever to the federal government. It has been supported since 2001 by $82.1 million in federal funds for operations, maintenance, equipment and related costs.

The 415,000-square-foot facility will consolidate in one place audio-visual collections from across four states and the District of Columbia and will greatly enhance the Library’s efforts to preserve and make accessible the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of moving images and sound recordings. The Packard Campus comprises three main areas: a collections building, where the Library’s moving images and recording sound collections will be housed under ideal conditions; a conservation building, where the collections will be acquired, managed and preserved; and a separate facility with 124 vaults where nitrate films will be stored safely.

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PR 07-153
ISSN 0731-3527

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