Location, Hours, and Access Information

Researchers are encouraged to come to Madison to use the WCFTR collections of moving images, manuscripts and visual materials. All collections can be accessed in the Archives Reading Room, on the fourth floor of the Wisconsin Historical Society 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 askarchives@wisconsinhistory.org.  All researchers must register to use the archives before their visit; registration is now done online:  ________

For more information about accessing the reading room as well as other COVID-19 updates and safety measures please see the Historical Society’s COVID information page. If you have any further questions you can contact us at the askarchives@wisconsinhistory.org address.

Mailing address:
Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research
Wisconsin Historical Society
816 State St, Madison, WI  53706.

All onsite access services are provided at no charge.

Access to Films

Access to films and videotapes held at the WCFTR is provided through the Archives Research Room of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Films and videotapes may be viewed by appointment only between 1 pm and 5 pm, Monday through Friday. For more information, call 608-264-6466, or email askmovies@wisconsinhistory.org.

With the exception of certain films which may be shown to classes on the UW-Madison campus, films do not circulate.  Qualified venues may borrow prints for a fee for exhibition purposes.

How to View Films

WCFTR motion pictures 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.

All film viewing is done at the WCFTR Film and Photo Archive. We have Steenbeck flatbed viewing machines for 16mm and 35mm film; all videos are digitized before viewing. All viewing is done by appointment between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Requests to retrieve films and videos 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 longer to prepare for viewing.  For this reason it is advised that all research requests be submitted 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 between 8 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday.
  • You may also make a reservation via email, but you should reconfirm via telephone to insure availability of equipment and films/videos.
  • 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 record or on the finding aid for the collection.

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 askmovies@wisconsinhistory.org

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.

Reproduction Services

Limited research services, including scanning material and emailing pdf files, can be provided to offsite patrons for a fee. The WCFTR is not a stock footage library and does not provide reproductions of film footage.

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