The David Sarnoff Library
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Collage of the David Sarnoff Library.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the David Sarnoff Library?

The DSL is located in Princeton, New Jersey, and houses materials related to the life of David Sarnoff. In the mid-1960s, RCA constructed the facility to house Mr. Sarnoff's papers and exhibits about his career. In 1972, Robert Sarnoff, David's oldest son and chief executive of RCA, incorporated the non-profit 501(c)(3) David Sarnoff Collection, which was to maintain the his father's papers, books, and memorabilia in the Library and "function as a non-profit educational, literary, scientific and charitable foundation."

Since 1998, the Collection has been revived as functioning organization that also operates as the David Sarnoff Library. The Library's activities have been focused around preserving, understanding, and promoting the history, process, and spirit of innovation represented by David Sarnoff's career and RCA's activities. Besides the original collection, the Library now also houses the technical, public relations, and photograph files of the RCA Laboratories as well as many of the RCA Corporate Public Relations vertical files and photograph collections of Mr. Sarnoff, RCA Laboratories, and RCA. The exhibits include displays related to the technologies invented or innovated at RCA and its laboratories, from electron tubes to solid-state and electro-optic technologies.

The DSL adjoins the David Sarnoff Research Center, which then housed the RCA Labs. When General Electric Company bought RCA and spun off its labs in 1986-87, Sarnoff Corporation assumed maintenance responsibilities and staff support. Sarnoff Corporation is an innovation services company owned by SRI International, formerly known as the Stanford Research Institute.

What does the Library contain?

The DSL maintains papers, books, memorabilia, and other holdings deposited by David Sarnoff as well as files, photos, publications, and artifacts related to RCA and its employees, especially those of its laboratories. These include over 25,000 photographs and other files transferred from the RCA corporate and laboratories public affairs offices, as well as RCA publications and serials, pamphlets, equipment notes and bulletins, private papers, researchers' lab notebooks, RCA and RCA Labs annual reports, and Princeton technical reports and engineering memoranda. The bulk of material covers the period between the construction of the Princeton laboratories in 1941 and the purchase of RCA by GE in 1986.

The DSL also maintains the exhibits designed by David Sarnoff to display his life and honors, as well as additional artifacts on display to show the relationship between his vision and the innovations developed by RCA scientists and engineers. These include landmark RCA radios and televisions, electron tubes from the collections of Drs. George Brown and Vladimir Zworykin, the oldest known electron microscope, early liquid crystal displays, RCA's first transistors, early optically rewritable discs, one of the first CMOS microprocessors, and the first thin-film transistor (TFT) and charge-coupled device (CCD).

Mr. Sarnoff selected his papers for the Library and they are primarily public in nature. Documentation of his management of RCA disappeared with RCA's corporate archives when GE took over the RCA Building in 1986-87. In addition the Library has minimal video or audio recordings and few files related to RCA Victor Records or the National Broadcasting Company (NBC).

Can I copy the pictures online?

Please feel free to copy images for educational assignments. We ask however that you credit the David Sarnoff Library, Princeton, New Jersey, for visual or written material that you use, and that you cite the webpage and date of visit. We would love to hear from you in our Guestbook about how you use our resources.
If you would like to use images on your website, please link to the images, and let us know of the links.

How can I acquire higher resolution versions of the images?

The Library generally has 300 dpi tiff files available and sells usage rights. Please email the Library with the URLs of the images that you desire and the reason for your request. Fees vary with the type of usage, and help offset the cost of staff time, storage, preservation, and cataloging the Library's collections.

What is the copyright on the site's images?

There is no simple answer. The Library makes no claims about copyright of the original images, whose status is legally unclear. In digitizing them, Library staff have resized, cropped, and often adjusted the contrast, brightness, or color, which may grant the Library a copyright on the digital version.

How do I visit the Library?

The DSL is open to visitors and researchers by appointment on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Contact Dr. Magoun at 609-734-2636 or

How is the Library funded?

Neither the Sarnoff family nor RCA endowed the Library. Funding comes from in-kind support by Sarnoff Corporation; grants by the New Jersey Historical Commission; Friends of the Library; and sales of books and usage rights to the Library's collection of photographs and other materials related to David Sarnoff and RCA. Alexander B. Magoun, Ph.D., is the director, with staff support from Sarnoff Corporation, consultants, contractors, volunteers, and interns. If you would like to help develop the Library and its resources, please contact Dr. Magoun at 609-734-2636 or

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This website is supported by Sarnoff Corporation RCA and New Jersey Historical Commission  
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