The Library of Congress—the oldest federal cultural institution in the nation—is the repository of the mint record of American creativity as the home of the U.S. Copyright Office, and one of our missions is to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations.
America is a wellspring of new ideas in music, literature, poetry, film and other forms of artistic expression. The Library is undertaking an unprecedented national program to celebrate creativity across America. We want to reach out beyond Washington to communities across the land and celebrate the energy and inventive spirit that are such an integral part of our cultural history.
The Library launched its nationwide celebration of creativity in 2005 with acclaimed baritone Thomas Hampson and a 11-city "Song of America" concert tour, which drew on the Library's incomparable collection of American song. The tour continues in 2009 and 2010 with even more stops in cities and towns across the country.
I cannot think of a more qualified and accomplished ambassador for this exciting initiative than Tom Hampson.
About James H. Billington
James Hadley Billington was sworn in as the Librarian of Congress on Sept. 14, 1987. He is the 13th person to hold the position since the Library was established in 1800.
Billington has led the Library of Congress into the digital age. Today the institution is recognized as the leading provider of free educational content on the Internet. Specifically, he championed the Library’s "American Memory" National Digital Library Program, which makes freely available online more than 10 million American historical items from the collections of the Library and other research institutions. These American Memory materials and the Library’s other Internet services, which include THOMAS (a congressional database), the online "card catalog," exhibitions, and a Web site for children and families called "America’s Library," handled more than 3 billion transactions in fiscal year 2004.
The Library’s first national private-sector advisory and support group, the James Madison Council, was created by Billington in 1990. Its members have supported the digital library initiative, other Library outreach programs, and important new acquisitions for the Library’s collections. In 2000, the Library’s bicentennial year, Madison Council Chairman John W. Kluge made the largest monetary donation in the Library’s history: $60 million to create a research center within the Library for distinguished scholars and a Nobel-level prize for lifetime achievement in the humanities or social sciences.
In October 2004, Billington headed a Library of Congress delegation to Tehran, Iran to re-initiate publications exchanges between the Library of Congress and the National Library of Iran. Billington was the most senior U.S. government official openly to visit Iran in 25 years.
Born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., on June 1, 1929, Billington was educated in the public schools of the Philadelphia area. He was class valedictorian at both Lower Merion High School and Princeton University, where he graduated with highest honors in 1950. Three years later he earned his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College. Following service with the U.S. Army and in the Office of National Estimates, he taught history at Harvard University from 1957 to 1962 and subsequently at Princeton University, where he was professor of history from 1964 to 1973.
From 1973 to 1987, Billington was director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the nation’s official memorial in Washington to America’s 28th president. As director, he founded the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the center and seven other new programs, as well as The Wilson Quarterly.
Billington is the author of six books; the latest is Russia in Search of Itself (Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins University Press), published in 2004.