April 27, 2018 (REVISED May 2, 2018) Library of Congress Facilitates Access to Collections Through Innovative Technology

Press Contact: Benny Seda-Galarza (202) 707-8732
Public Contact: John Hessler (202) 707- 7223

The Library of Congress has launched three new online interactive sites that highlight creative ways to facilitate the accessibility of thousands of collections, using the Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based tool to create story maps.

Presenting the information in a curated format, story maps allow users to combine text, images and multimedia content in an online application that tells stories through data and the capabilities of GIS technology.

From the first female photographers who traveled through the South to newspapers that were produced in Japanese-American internment camps during World War II, the featured applications showcase striking images from the Library’s collections and use data to map the attributes and history behind some of the books, manuscripts and other objects. 

“This innovative technology allows curators at the Library of Congress to connect collections online like never before,” said Paulette Hasier, chief of the Geography and Map Division at the Library and pioneer of this new initiative. “Story maps showcases Library treasures while serving as a roadmap for the public on the infinite and engaging ways they can use our data.”

 “This technology gives a set of digital humanities and visualization tools to curators and to subject matter specialists throughout the Library of Congress,” said John Hessler, curator of the Library’s Jay I. Kislak Collection of the culture and history of the early Americas. “It enables them to put together state-of-the-art applications that can be used to highlight little known but important collections.”

Led by Hasier, a team of GIS specialists, software developers and curators are using GIS tools to delve deep into the Library’s hidden treasures and making the stories of these collections accessible to the public.

One story map highlights the Library’s extensive collection of incunables, which are extremely rare books printed before the year 1500.  

Another story map, titled “Surveying the South,” explores the photography of Frances Benjamin Johnston, one of the first female photographers who gained notoriety for her architectural pictures in the 1930s.

The third, called “Behind Barbed Wire,” looks at a collection of newspapers that were produced in Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. The newspapers, many of which are digitized and accessible through the story map, provide an almost day-to-day record of life in the camps, highlighting things like baseball scores, religious services and other events, affecting the lives of those interned.

The story map is illustrated with the complex and beautiful photographs of Ansel Adams who visited the camps in the early 1940s, making a ready to use educational tool.

Go to loc.gov/rr/geogmap/storymaps.html to access these and other story maps collections from the Library of Congress. The Library expects to launch additional applications in the coming year.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.


PR 18-055
ISSN 0731-3527