The Library of Congress–the largest library in the world and the oldest U.S. federal cultural institution–on Saturday, April 12, debuts an immersive, new "Library of Congress Experience," offering visitors unique historical and cultural treasures brought to life through cutting-edge interactive technology and a companion Web site.
The experience comprises a series of new ongoing exhibitions, dozens of interactive kiosks, an inspiring multimedia "overture" on the collections and programs of the Library, and a continuing online educational experience at the upcoming Web site myLOC.gov. All exhibits are free and open to the public.
Detailed information on the Experience can be found at a new microsite, www.loc.gov/experience/.
The site also enables the public to participate directly in the Experience by way of "Inspiration Across the Nation." Because the Experience celebrates and showcases the creativity and contributions of our nation's early cultures, great minds and other founding influences, people nationwide will have the opportunity to submit to the Library their own creative works in the form of stories, poems, video, audio, photos–anything that can be transmitted in an electronic file.
Select entries will be chosen to be part of the Library's permanent collections, joining the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and other cultural and historic legends.
The Great Hall
Visitors to the Library's historic Thomas Jefferson Building enter directly into the first floor Great Hall via three bronze doors, which will be opened to the public for the first time in nearly two decades on April 12, the day before Jefferson's 265th birthday.
From there they are directed to one of two orientation galleries flanking the Great Hall, where information about events and how to navigate the new Experience is presented on overhead monitors. A multimedia "overture" plays on a multi-screen collage in each orientation gallery.
There visitors receive a Passport to Knowledge, a guide to the "greatest hits" of the Experience with instructions for self-guided audio tours. Later in 2008, a unique barcode on the Passport to Knowledge will allow visitors to play a game-based activity called Knowledge Quest and to "bookmark" objects of interest for later exploration on a personalized Web site at myLOC.gov/.
In the Great Hall, interactive technology allows visitors to zoom in on the artistic and architectural details of the space, and enhances a display of two of the Library's most prized objects: the Gutenberg Bible and Giant Bible of Mainz.
Creating the U.S.
On the second floor (mezzanine level) is the new exhibit "Creating the U.S.", where visitors are first greeted by an interactive video wall that senses their presence and reveals varied historical information based on where the visitor is standing.
"Creating the U.S." tells the story of how our Founding Fathers used creativity, collaboration and compromise to form our nation, with a focus on the words and phrases that created the republic. Visitors can examine and interact with historic drafts of the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's copy of the Constitution and John Beckley's Bill of Rights.
Thomas Jefferson's Library
Visitors can explore Thomas Jefferson's library, featuring thousands of original volumes that provided the foundation for the Library of Congress and its universal collections. They also can navigate books through page-turning technology and learn how one of America's greatest thinkers was inspired.
Exploring the Early Americas
The Library of Congress Experience incorporates the "Exploring the Early Americas" exhibit, which opened in December 2007.
The exhibition tells the story of the Americas before the time of Columbus, as well as the period of contact, conquest and their aftermath. It features unique objects from the Library's Jay I. Kislak Collection, as well as Martin Waldseemüller's 1507 Map of the World, the first document to use the word "America."
More details can be found at: www.loc.gov/today/pr/2007/07-233.html.
A companion Web site to the Library of Congress Experience, myLOC.gov/, also launches April 12.
The site features interactive versions of the same exhibition content from the physical experience, educational resources, information for visitors, and a page where users can create their own virtual collection of Library objects. Later in 2008, the Passport to Knowledge will connect onsite visitors to their bookmarked content at myLOC.gov/.
Interactive educational content will be the hallmark of the Library's new Experience. Teachers will have access to a range of educational resources that will transform a visit to the Library into a meaningful experience for learners of all ages. Onsite and online multimedia activities will engage young people to think critically, inspiring lifelong learning and future exploration of the Library's collections.
"Visitors to the new Library of Congress Experience will find an amazing place where they will experience highlights of the largest collection anywhere of the world's knowledge and America's creativity," said Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress. "They will meet the richness of the past, spark their own curiosity and imagination, and continue the adventure of learning online, at home."
A day of public celebration on Saturday, April 12, at the Thomas Jefferson Building (10 First St. SE, Washington, D.C., 20540) marks the opening of the Library of Congress Experience.
Festivities kick off at 11 a.m., with the formal opening of the bronze doors and exhibits to the public at noon (coinciding with the conclusion of the Parade of the National Cherry Blossom Festival) until 5 p.m.
There will be music and entertainment, activities for young people, presentations featuring Library programs such as the Veterans History Project, and the designation of several new Living Legends from many walks of life.
The Library of Congress Experience is made possible by the benefaction of the United States Congress and with major support from John and Maria Kluge, Microsoft Corp., Terremark Worldwide Inc., Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, David H. Koch, Peter D. and Julie Fisher Cummings, Marjorie S. Fisher, Roger and Susan Hertog, Jay I. Kislak, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Xerox Foundation, Raymond W. Smith, Nancy Glanville Jewell, Beatrice W. Welters, Consuelo Duroc-Danner, Marjorie M. Fisher, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, with the additional support of other generous donors.
The Library of Congress is the world's preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, which bring to bear the world's knowledge in almost all of the world's languages and America's private-sector intellectual and cultural creativity in almost all formats.