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Location, Hours and Access Information

Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research

Wisconsin Historical Society

816 State St

Madison, WI  53706

Researchers are encouraged to come to Madison to use the WCFTR collections of moving images, manuscripts and visual materials. All collections are housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society and can be accessed in the 4th floor Archives Reading Room, located at 816 State Street, on the east end of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

Reading Room hours are 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, and 9 am to 4 pm on most Saturdays. The Archives Reading Room is closed on Sundays and holidays. For more information on the Archives Reading Room visit Directions to the Wisconsin Historical Society, call 608-264-6460, or email

All onsite access services are provided at no charge. 


Searching the Collection

Information about WCFTR collections is available in in the University of Wisconsin's integrated library catalog and in the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections, where archival finding aids can be accessed.  Access to still photographs and other graphic materials is also provided through a card catalog in the Archives Research Room.

When searching for feature film titles, a search should be conducted both in the UW library catalog and in the Feature Film Database.

For more information about how to use our collections databases, visit the WHS's guide: "How to Search Our Archives Collections"

TIP:  In the University of Wisconsin's integrated library catalog, limit your search to the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives location to find the WCFTR's holdings


Access to Moving Image Materials

Access to films and videotapes is coordinated through the WHS Archives Research Room and takes place on the 4th floor of the Wisconsin Historical Society building at the WCFTR Film Archive.  WCFTR collections can be viewed by anyone working on a specific research project.  You do not have to be affiliated with the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Historical Society or another academic institution.  However, we cannot accommodate requests for viewing unrelated to research. 

The collection is available for on-site research viewing only and does not circulate.

All onsite access services are provided at no charge. 

We have Steenbeck flatbed viewing machines for 16mm and 35mm film and videotape players for ¾" and ½" videocassettes.  All viewing is done by appointment between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.  For more information, call 608-264-6466, or email

Requests to retrieve films for viewing and appointments for use of the viewing room must be made at least one week in advance.  Please note that due to an item's condition and format, many collection holdings can take up to 2-3 weeks or much longer to prepare for viewing.  For this reason it is advised to submit all research requests well in advance of any proposed visit.  Some items listed in the catalog may not be available due to condition and/or format.

  • To make a reservation by phone, please call 608-264-6466 or 608-264-6460 during reference hours.
  • You may also reserve via email, but you should reconfirm via telephone to insure availability of equipment and films.
  • All films should be reserved by call number. The call number for each title is noted in the call number field of the ArCat entry.

With the exception of certain films which may be shown to classes on the UW-Madison campus, films do not circulate. 


Access to WCFTR Manuscript Collections and Still Photographs

No advanced notice is required to access manuscript and photograph collections at the WCFTR.  Materials are paged from the stacks daily, though certain collections are stored off-site and require advanced notice for access.  Thus, while not required, patrons are encouraged to call or write in advance to confirm that the materials they wish to study will be available for their visit. 

When you find collections related to your subject of interest, note the catalog information such as format, call number and shelf locations of the collection/s. This information will help us to provide you with information about and access to the collections.

For more information on WCFTR manuscript collections or still photographs, please call 608-264-6466 or email

More information about policies, scheduled closures, accessibility, and amenities at the WHS Archives Reading Room is available here.


Reproduction Services

On-Site Research

Visitors may use self-service machines to copy most paper-based archival material, unless their physical condition or legal constraints prohibit it.  We reserve the right to deny photocopying of materials for either reason above.  Rare, fragile, and large format items such as bound newspapers may not be photocopied.

Visitors may use self-service machines to copy most archival material or save images to a flash drive. Copies cost ($.07) per page. Wiscards are required for printing, non-UW Madison guests may obtain a guest copy card at the reference desk. Saving images to a flash drive is free. Photographs may not be scanned to a flash drive, but paper copying is allowed.

Please Note: The Archives now uses the Wiscard Go Print system for copying. Funds currently on the old cards can be transferred to the new Wiscard print payment cards by visiting room 348 Memorial Library, 9 AM - 3 PM, Monday - Friday or by contacting New Wiscards will be available here once the system has been changed in our Library. See more information.

Additionally, we do allow the use of digital photography in the archives.  Researchers wanting to take photos should bring their own equipment and must agree to our reference photography agreement before taking any photographs.

  Researchers must sign a photography agreement form before taking any photographs (Photography Agreement, 98 KB, PDF).

Further information on the Wisconsin Historical Society's policies and procedures for purchasing copies of material can be found here.

Digital photography or reproduction of moving image materials by researchers is not allowed. 

The WCFTR cannot provide copies of moving image materials in our collection.  Due to copyright laws and contractual agreements with our donors and depositors, archive holdings (including public domain titles) are available for on-site research viewing only.

The WCFTR is not a stock footage library and does not provide reproductions of film footage for this use.

Off-Site Research

Photocopies of papers or photographs, as well as photographic reproductions of stills, can be purchased, and limited research services can be provided to offsite patrons for a fee.  For more information regarding research assistance, reproduction fees, and turn-around times, please contact

The WCFTR film and video collection is available for on-site research viewing only and does not circulate.


Reference Assistance

The Center can provide research assistance to researchers unable to visit the Archive in Madison for a fee of $25.00 per hour.  There is no charge for individuals researching WCFTR films, photographs or manuscripts at the Wisconsin Historical Society.
For reference assistance you may:

  1. Visit the WCFTR
  2. Send a reference request via E-Mail
  3. Contact the Center by calling us at 608-264-6466

Please note: The WCFTR can only provide limited research service and we reserve the right to turn down research requests on a case-by-case basis.


Print Loans

Films in the collection of the WCFTR are non-circulating, reserved for use by researchers and educators on the premises of the WCFTR Film Archive.  Films are not available for classroom use off-campus or for film societes. 

Prints from the collection are loaned to FIAF-member motion picture archives and, on a case-by-case basis, to other venues that meet the WCFTR's strict requirements for professional care, handling, and projection of archival films.  The following policies apply to any approved print loan:

  1. Requests for films must be submitted at least 30 days before the proposed screening, to the film archivist.
  2. The borrower must acknowledge full responsibility for replacing lost or damaged prints.
  3. The borrower must secure copyright clearance or public performance licenses from the appropriate rights holder(s) and furnish the WCFTR with written documentation of any and all clearances.  Where applicable, the borrower must also obtain written permission from the donor of the film print.
  4. The borrower must take full responsibility for arranging all customs clearances for any film leaving the United States.
  5. The borrower will bear all transportation, insurance, and packaging costs, as well as costs of film expediters/forwarding agents.  Borrowers will be asked to furnish a FedEx account number, and shipments must be made by air, not ground.
  6. Films must be returned promptly after screening, prepaid and insured for $600 per reel.  A late fee will be assessed for any film returned later than one week after the last screening of that film.  (Two weeks for films shown overseas.)  Late return of prints will be grounds for refusal of future loan requests.
  7. The participation of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research must be acknowledged in all publicity, program notes, and any other publications generated by the film screenings.
  8. The standard loan fee will be $350/35mm feature and $225/16mm feature for one screening.  Loan fees are payable in advance.

Please note:  Requests will be evaluated by the film archivist on a case-by-case basis.