August 10, 1999

1531 Mesoamerican Document To Be Displayed in "American Treasures of the Library of Congress"

The Library of Congress will display the Huexotzinco Codex October 6 through February 9 in the "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" exhibition. The document will replace Thomas Jefferson's "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence in the "Top Treasures" case.

Due to popular demand, Thomas Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration of Independence will remain in the exhibition for a month longer than anticipated. The document had been scheduled to be replaced September 4. Instead it will remain on view through October 5.

This exhibition of the Huexotzinco (Way-hoat-ZINC-o) Codex marks the first time all eight panels of the document will be displayed. The document will be placed in the award-winning "Top Treasures" case. The 12-by-10-foot, 3-ton case is unique in the world and was built according to the highest standards of preservation and security to display the most rare, valuable and fragile items in the "American Treasures" exhibition, the only permanent exhibition ever mounted by the Library of Congress.

Other items that will be exhibited for the first time beginning October 6 in "American Treasures" include:

  • A very rare January 4, 1800, issue of the Ulster County Gazette (Kingston, N.Y.), which reported on the December 14, 1799, death of George Washington.
  • Sketches of Ancient History in the Six Nations, an 1828 compendium of sketches drawn from legends by David Cusick, an artist of the Tuscarora Native American tribe in New York.
  • Photographs, marked "Top Secret," taken in 1945 six miles from the first nuclear bomb explosion at the Trinity Test Site, New Mexico.
  • Early baseball cards from the Carl Sandburg collection featuring Connie Mack, Charles Cominski, Cap Anson and King Kelly.

The Huexotzinco Codex is a legal document by the Nahua Indian people from south east of Mexico City. They joined Hernando Cortés in a legal case against the abuses of the Spanish administrators 10 years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1521.

The document, which combines Christian imagery and indigenous graphic symbols, is a precise accounting of the products and services that the people of Huexotzinco were forced to render as tribute to the new Spanish colonial government. They included corn, turkey, chili peppers and beans, adobe bricks, lumber, limestone, and woven cloth. They also included the amount of gold and feathers needed to create a Spanish military campaign banner of the Madonna and Child.

John Hébert, senior specialist in the Hispanic Division, will give a "Treasure Talk" about the document at noon on October 6. The group will meet outside of the "American Treasures" exhibition on the second level of the Thomas Jefferson Building, located at 10 First St. S.E. Participants should expect to stand for the half-hour duration of the informal talk.

The exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from the Xerox Foundation.

The "American Treasures" exhibition is also available on-line, where viewers can see 264 items and read about their significance.

The "American Treasures" exhibition features more than 270 items representing a cross section of the Library's vast repository of rare books, music, manuscripts, maps, photographs, drawings, audio clips and videotapes. Continuing highlights of "American Treasures" include the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets on the night of his assassination, a photograph of the Wright brothers' first flight taken at the instant of takeoff and early comic books.

Library curators will resume giving "Treasure-Talks" about items within the exhibition every Wednesday at noon beginning in September. To confirm the speaker and subject matter, consult the Library's Web site.

Exhibition hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The Library is closed on federal holidays. The exhibition is free. Tickets are not required.

Groups of 10 or more are requested to call the Visitor Services Office at (202) 707-9779 to arrange a tour. For recorded information about the exhibition, call (202) 707-3834, (202) 707-6200 TTY.

Note to press: A color slide of the Huexotzinco Codex is available for loan from the Public Affairs Office.

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PR 99-110
ISSN 0731-3527

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