By AUDREY FISCHER
Want to see national treasures such as the Gettysburg Address or the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence? How about foreign treasures such as those belonging to the Bibliothèque nationale de France or the collection at the Saxon State Library in Dresden?
You don't have to travel to Washington or reserve an overseas flight to Europe.
Just visit the Library's World Wide Web site (http://www.loc.gov/) to view these and other major Library exhibitions.
Since 1992 the Library has mounted 12 exhibitions online. The first four exhibits were made accessible, with contractual assistance, under Internet's anonymous FTP facility. The premiere online exhibitions were "Revelations from the Russian Archives"; "Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library and Renaissance Culture;" "Scrolls from the Dead Sea"; and "1492: An Ongoing Voyage."
"The subsequent emergence of the World Wide Web offered an ease of use and support for multimedia, which made it ideal for online exhibits," said Lynn Brooks of Information Technology Services. "The data from these four exhibits were downloaded and placed on the World Wide Web at the University of North Carolina, using the hypertext markup language (HTML)." Mr. Brooks, along with Gene Roberts of the Library's Interpretive Programs Office, have combined their technical and graphical talents to spearhead the effort to increase access to the Library's exhibits.
In June of 1994 the Library established its own server on the World Wide Web to offer a wide array of information in a variety of formats, including exhibits. Beginning with "Selections from the African American Mosaic" exhibit (on view at the Library from February through August 1994), the Library has placed an additional eight exhibits on the World Wide Web, with no outside contractual assistance. The newest online exhibit, "Dresden: Treasures from the Saxon State Library," opened at the Library in April 1996 and went online simultaneously. Other online offerings are: "In the Beginning Was the Word: The Russian Church and Native Alaskan Cultures"; "Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents"; "Temple of Liberty: Building the Capitol for a New Nation"; "The Gettysburg Address"; "Creating French Culture: Treasures from the BibliothŠque Nationale de France"; and "Women Come to the Front: Journalists, Photographers and Broadcasters During World War II."
The four original online exhibits were recently transferred to the Library's World Wide Web site, and an effort was made to standardize the "look and feel" among all 12 exhibits. Added benefits include improved response time and reliability, and the ability to track usage more accurately. "We originally prided ourselves on continuing to improve upon each online exhibit," said Mr. Roberts. "Ultimately, we realized the important relationship between standardization and ease of use by patrons."
In April several other system upgrades were unveiled. They include: upgrading to current HTML standards and to the LC World Wide Web style standard; resizing of large images for faster transfer and improved display; inclusion of some material not previously in the exhibits; and upgrading the LC On-line Exhibits homepage.
The task of transforming physical exhibits into online replicas is performed in a scanning center, located in the Library's John Adams Building. Current equipment includes two flatbed scanners for 11-by-17-inch material, and a third scanner for standard transparencies (ranging from 35mm to 4 by 5 inches).
The result is a product that the Library of Congress is eager to share with users around the world and one that increases the shelf life of its exhibitions indefinitely.
Audrey Fischer is a writer-editor in Information technology Systems.