About the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division
MOVING IMAGE & RECORDED SOUND (MIRS) DIVISION
515 Malcolm X Boulevard (135th St and Malcolm X Blvd)
New York, NY 10037
The Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division (MIRS, pronounced “meers”) collects and preserves audio and moving image (AMI) materials related to the experiences of people of African descent. The division has amassed nearly 400 collections, approximately 5,000 square feet, in a variety of formats, which captures the gestures and sounds of major historical, artistic and cultural moments and influencers. While the strength is the Black American holdings there is considerable Caribbean and African representation in the collection.
The Schomburg Center’s Moving Image & Recorded Sound (MIRS) division has a broad and unique collection of audio and moving image (AMI) materials. MIRS holds the only existing film clip of the founding collector and curator, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. While there is no known audio of Mr. Schomburg, this collection literally gives voice and movement to black history and culture.
The division has amassed significant special collections created by black independent filmmakers and film organizations as well as more than 500 rare 16mm newsreels, documentary and dramatic films principally focused on political, anthropological, religious, and cultural themes. Among the holdings is a singular collection of public affairs programming that documents black issues and luminaries from the 1960s Civil Rights era through Black Power, and into the 1980’s. In addition, the division has collected the Schomburg Center’s extensive oral history/video documentation program (1982 - 1998), as well as its unique public programs and live events from 1941 to the present.
With more than 25,000 long-play (LP) albums, the recorded sound collections cover the various traditional and contemporary music genres from across the diaspora. The holdings range from the earliest recordings of classic blues singers and jazz bands through gospel, rhythm and blues, and a growing collection of rap and hip-hop music. The LPs include spoken-word recordings such as rare accounts of the formerly enslaved, cast recordings of theater productions, early black comedy albums and noteworthy political meetings, lectures and speeches.
Some of the notable audio and moving image materials separated from, or shared with, other Schomburg divisions include materials from the collections of author and entertainer, Maya Angelou; political scientist and diplomat, Ralph J. Bunche; playwright, Lorraine Hansberry; jazz singer and songwriter, Albert Hunter; actor, Canada Lee; jazz singer, vaudevillian and Parisian nightclub owner, Ada “Bricktop” Smith; and world-renowned political activist and author, Malcolm X. Most recently, the Schomburg Center has acquired collections that have substantial AMI materials, both in uniqueness and volume, including the hip-hop artist and filmmaker, Fab 5 Freddy; the jazz great, Sonny Rollins; the actors and influencers, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis; and the actor, singer and activist, Harry Belafonte.