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Access to Materials

Access to Moving Image Materials

Please note: Throughout 2018 and early 2019, the WCFTR's film and video collections are moving from the Wisconsin Historical Society headquarters to a new, state-of-the-art climate controlled storage facility on the east side of Madison. While the collection is in-transit, retrieval times may be slightly delayed from our usual one week advanced notice for appointment times. Please request loans and viewing appointments far in advance.

Access to films and videotapes is coordinated through the WHS Archives Research Room and takes place on the fourth 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 will digitize videotapes in advance of viewing appointments. 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 ensure availability of equipment and films.
  • All films and videos should be reserved by call number. The call number for each title is noted in the call number field of the catalog 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. 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.


Access to WCFTR Audio Collections

Audio from WCFTR collections is available for onsite listening only – copies are not made for any use, including personal reference, unless permission from the donor or estate has been given.

Because of the variety and fragile nature of audio formats access copies are made for researchers to listen to. If an access copy does not already exist, one will need to be made before a researcher can listen to the content. This process usually takes 1-2 weeks but, depending on the amount requested, the existing orders and staff availability, it may take longer. Researchers are strongly advised to contact WCFTR staff ahead of time to ensure access copies will be able to be made before their visit.