The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with over 170 million items in its collections. From rare books and manuscripts to maps, photographs, and music recordings, the Library of Congress is a treasure trove of knowledge and history. But how did this institution come to be? Here’s a look back at the fascinating history of the Library of Congress.
In 1800, President John Adams signed a bill moving the nation’s capital from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. As part of this move, Congress decided to establish a library for the use of members of Congress. The original collection of books was housed in the Capitol building and was available for use by members of Congress and their staff.
Over the years, the collection grew in size and importance, and in 1814, the library suffered a devastating blow when British troops burned the Capitol building, destroying most of the collection. Determined to rebuild, Congress authorized the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library in 1815, which contained over 6,000 books. This acquisition served as the foundation for the new Library of Congress.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the library continued to grow, with collections in art, music, and other fields. In 1897, a new building was constructed to house the library’s expanding collections. The building, which is now known as the Jefferson Building, is a stunning example of neoclassical architecture and features intricate mosaics, marble columns, and ornate carvings.
In addition to its impressive collections, the Library of Congress has played an important role in preserving and promoting American culture. The library’s American Folklife Center collects and preserves traditional music, dance, and storytelling from across the country, while the Veterans History Project collects and preserves the stories of American veterans from World War I to the present.
Today, the Library of Congress continues to be a vital institution in American life, providing access to information and resources for Congress, scholars, and the general public. The library’s collections are available for use by anyone with a Library of Congress reader card, and many of the library’s resources are available online.
The Library of Congress is a testament to the power of knowledge and the importance of preserving our cultural heritage. Its collections and resources continue to inspire and educate people around the world.