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Roman Vishniac film collection

Identifier: COD0000017-ACC 1994-0001

This collection documents Roman Vishniac's pioneering work in naturalist filmmaking and photomicroscopy. It includes approximately 295,000 feet of motion picture film; more than 2,000 photographic negatives, slides, and prints; and paper records associated with these works. The bulk of the collection dates to the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, when Vishniac was producing microbiology films in New York City. The collection also includes eleven home movies.

The motion pictures comprise 16mm, 35mm, and Super 8mm formats, and include film elements (work prints, outtakes, magnetic sound tracks) representing Roman Vishniac’s work in popular science and classroom filmmaking. Work directly related to the Living Biology series (sponsored by the National Science Foundation) is particularly well represented. Also included are representative examples from Vishniac’s work for Encyclopædia Britannica Films, copies of some documentaries produced by other entities that describe and contextualize Vishniac’s work, and home movies of family travels in the late 1960s and early 1970s to Israel and various destinations in the United Sates and Europe.

Paper records comprise correspondence, film scripts and drafts, and some published materials. Projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation and by Encyclopædia Britannica Films are particularly well documented. Biographical materials and documentation relating to Vishniac's appointment at Yeshiva University are also included.

Photographs in the collection include more than 2,000 negatives, prints, color transparencies, 16mm film clips, and lantern slides.


  • 1958-1990



This collection has been processed. Portions of this collection may be viewed online; the remainder may be accessed upon request.

Additional information about the items in this collection can be found in the MIRC Reference Catalog. Items are prefixed RVFC.

For more about this collection, contact curator Amy Ciesielski at

Copyright and Use

Most materials copyright University of South Carolina. All rights reserved. Some content in the collection may be protected by copyright.


295,000 feet of film

22 boxes

76.5 Linear Feet

Physical Location

Moving Image Research Collections. 707 Catawba St. Columbia, SC 29208

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In the early 1990s, University of South Carolina Biology Professor John Herr began corresponding with Mara Vishniac-Kohn, Roman’s daughter, about the biological film legacy. In 1994, Mara Vishniac-Kohn gifted the motion picture films and some related materials to the University. Additional materials, which had been housed at Fairleigh Dickinson University, were conveyed to the University in 1996.

Digital Collections

"Roman Vishniac: The Subject is Nature," a digital collection of Vishniac's nature photography, is available through USC Digital Collections:

Processing Information

The films in this collection were processed by student workers and volunteers in the early 1990s. The manuscripts and still photographs were processed by Olivia Keyes and Heather Heckman in 2012. This finding aid was created by Heather Heckman in 2012 and updated by Amy Ciesielski in 2015.



Repository Details

Part of the Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC) Repository

707 Catawba Street
Columbia SC 29208

Language of description
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