Bicentennical Home
About the Bicentennial
Library of Congress
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The Library of Congress, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, was established by an act of Congress in 1800, when President John Adams signed a bill transferring the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. On April 24, 2000, the Library celebrated its Bicentennial with a day-long series of events and entertainment kicked off by ceremonies marking the issuance of the Library of Congress commemorative stamp and the silver and bimetallic commemorative coins. The launch of a new, easy-to-use and entertaining Web site (americaslibrary.gov), designed especially for children and their families, and the unveiling of a national public service advertising campaign in partnership with the Ad Council followed the coin and stamp ceremonies.

The National Birthday Celebration was held on the East Lawn of the Capitol, with the Library's magnificent Thomas Jefferson Building as its backdrop and an audience of more than 5,000. The program opened with a speech by the Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who emphasized that this was a "national celebration, not just of an institution but of the role of libraries everywhere in providing free and open access to knowledge and information." ABC journalist Cokie Roberts emceed as General Colin Powell, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recounted the creation of the Library; the Librarian of Congress entertained children with Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are; Roger Baum read a letter from his great-grandfather, L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; illusionist David Copperfield disappeared into a 1-foot-wide box with his head protruding from one side and his feet from the other; and the Library's Living Legends, including "Sesame Street's" Big Bird, lined up on stage to receive medals in honor of their contributions to American life and culture. Living Legend Mickey Hart introduced a medley of American music-makers--Native American drummers and singers, African American dancers, country singers Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys and Kathy Mattea, Latin percussionists Tito Puente and Giovanni Hidalgo, folksingers Peter Seeger and his grandson Tao Rodriguez, jazz singer Dianne Reeves, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, the soul group the Chi-Lites, Washington's Eastern High School Choir, and Mickey's fellow Grateful Dead member Bob Weir--all backed by the Saturday Night Live Band. An evening reception featured celebratory remarks by Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut), and historian David McCullough and the opening of the premier Bicentennial exhibition Thomas Jefferson.

The Bicentennial program lasted much longer than one day. The Bicentennial Web site provides an overview of how "America's Library" celebrated this very special year in its history.

 

 

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