An online preview of the upcoming exhibition "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" is now available from the Library's Web site.
The preview heralds the Library's exhibition of the same name, which features American books, films, photographs, music scores, cartoons, drawings, manuscripts and such objects as the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets the night he was assassinated.
"This preview is an introduction to the cultural treasures that the nation's library holds in trust for all Americans. We hope it will entice visitors to see the exhibition and the gloriously restored Jefferson Building," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
The preview will feature selected items biweekly, beginning with one of the Library's top treasures, the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson's own hand with notations by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Every two weeks, three new items will be added to the preview site until the exhibition opens in May. Among the preview items will be the lab notebook of Alexander Graham Bell, Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and what may be the first surviving baseball card.
The items will be added from each of three areas in the actual exhibition: "Memory," "Reason" and "Imagination," reflecting the organization of Thomas Jefferson's personal library, which, when sold to the Library in 1815, became the seed of the present collections.
This permanently rotating exhibition and the online preview are made possible by generous support from the Xerox Corp. "American Treasures" will be the centerpiece of a yearlong celebration marking the official reopening of the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building during its 100th anniversary year.
The continuing exhibition will be on view in the newly restored Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The preview will be available on the Library's World Wide Web site at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/.
One of the most fascinating cartographic formats represented in the Library's holdings is a collection of eight powder horns inscribed with maps, dating from the time of the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. For soldiers, hunters or frontiersman in the late Colonial period, powder horns were indispensable companions to their muskets. Fashioned out of cow or ox horns, they made convenient containers for carrying and protecting gunpowder. Usually handmade, these horns were often inscribed with references to particular campaigns, rhymes, names of forts or towns, diary entries or maps. Since maps were scarce during the time period, it is possible that map-inscribed powder horns served as guides for their owners, but it is more likely that the map images provided records or mementos of the areas that the owners traversed or the campaign in which they were involved.
The powder horn shown here is undated and unsigned, although it is believed to date from between 1757 and 1760. It shows the Hudson and Mohawk river valleys as well as Lake Champlain and Lake Ontario, waterways that served as the major arteries of travel between New York City (portrayed pictorially at the bottom of the horn) and the St. Lawrence River Valley to the north and the Great Lakes to the west. Numerous towns and forts along the route are named, and houses, boats and other details enliven the design. The horn also bears a British coat of arms, suggesting the owner was an American Colonial or British soldier.
This powder horn is part of the Peter Force Collection, which the Library purchased by an act of Congress in 1867. Force (1790-1868) was the preeminent collector of Americana (including maps) during the first half of the 19th century.