The Moving Image and Recorded Sound (MIRS) Division documents the experiences of peoples of African descent, as they have been captured via audiovisual technology. The MIRS Division collections encompass a variety of formats including motion picture film (released prints and outtakes), video recordings, and music, and spoken arts recordings in several formats.
Included in the broad range of audiovisual materials are documentary and dramatic films, principally focusing upon international political, anthropological, religious, and cultural arts themes. A unique collection of public affairs television programs documents the local concerns of African Americans in communities across the United States. Public service announcements and commercial advertisements are also strongly represented. The recorded music collection covers the various traditional and contemporary genres that have developed out of the cultures of African peoples in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas. These holdings range from the earliest recordings of the classic blues singers and jazz bands, through gospel and rhythm and blues offerings, to contemporary popular forms, such as rap music. African American composers and performers of European classical music are also represented. The spoken arts collections include original cast recordings of theater productions, historic dramatizations from radio's golden age, speeches from the modern Civil Rights period, and contemporary lectures and conference proceedings.
The division maintains a strong representative collection of African American, Caribbean, and African popular and traditional music genres; a growing collection of nation-wide public affairs television broadcasts; Caribbean and African contemporary popular music collections; and, early jazz and tap dance film footage.
The Schomburg Center's Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division and Media Productions and Theatre Operations units are currently developing a variety of multi-media presentations including a Schomburg Gallery of Voices and Images.
Since 1980 the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division has conducted oral history interviews through its Oral History/Video Documentation Program. Both as individual and as series interviews, these primary source video testimonies are part of one of the nation's longest-running video oral history programs. Among the many subject series are "Black Physicians and Health Care in the African American Community," "African American Labor Leaders," "Black Dance Pioneers," "Black Scientists," "Community Development Corporation Leaders," and others.
Incorporated into the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division organizational unit is the Center's Media Productions and Theatre Operations (MPTO) through which the Center operates the Langston Hughes Auditorium and other public program venues throughout the Center. Historically significant concerts, lectures, forums, and other events are routinely documented via broadcast-quality videotaping by the MPTO unit; tapes are added immediately to the collections of the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division.