July 9, 1999 Library of Congress Announces Bicentennial Projects

"Libraries, Creativity, Liberty" to Be Theme of Commemoration; Former Congress Members Lindy Boggs and Mark Hatfield Named Honorary Chairs

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217

Next April, the Library of Congress, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, will be 200 years old. Since its founding on April 24, 1800, the Library has grown into the world's largest library, a treasure house of America's and the world's creativity. What started with fewer than a thousand books has now grown into a collection featuring more than 115 million items in all formats.

Former U.S. Rep. Lindy Boggs and former Sen. Mark Hatfield, longtime supporters of the Library and its mission, have been named honorary co-chairs of the Library's Bicentennial celebration.

From now through the end of the Bicentennial year in 2000, events and activities will take place in cities and towns across the nation. With a Bicentennial theme that focuses on "Libraries, Creativity, Liberty," the goal of the celebration is to inspire creativity in the 21st century by stimulating greater use of the Library of Congress and libraries across the country.

"We will celebrate with pride our first 200 years," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "During that time, the Library has grown into the world's largest repository of knowledge and creativity, which it has preserved for all generations of Americans.

"We want to take advantage of this opportunity to energize national support for the Library's mission, enrich our collections and enhance our service to Congress and the nation with Bicentennial activities that will carry us with strong momentum into the 21st century," he added.

Plans for the Library's Bicentennial include:

Gifts to the Nation. With its announcement on April 14 that $1 million had been donated for the re-creation of Thomas Jefferson's personal library, the Library of Congress announced its Bicentennial Gifts to the Nation project. The gift will enable the Library, once again, to house the "seed" collection from which its incomparable collections have grown and to enrich the depth and diversity of existing collections. The Library's curators have identified additional materials that belong in the national library, where they will be preserved and made available for future generations of Americans. The Bicentennial Gifts to the Nation program is an opportunity to support the acquisition of this and other important cultural legacies, as well as the scholars and curators who bring them to life.

Digital Gifts. In October 1994, the Library began the National Digital Library Program, in cooperation with other research institutions. This project to make the Library's collections available electronically is accessible on the Internet at http://www.loc.gov. More than 2 million items are already available, and nearly 6 million will be on-line by 2000.

Local Legacies. Americans throughout the nation, together with their congressional representatives and local and state libraries, will take part in Local Legacies projects that will document America's cultural heritage.

Poetry for the Nation. Under the guidance of Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate, audio and video tapes of people from all walks of life reciting their favorite poems will be created and added to the Library's Archive of Literature on Tape as part of the Bicentennial Favorite Poem project.

Symposia for the Nation. Beginning with "Frontiers of the Mind in the Twenty-First Century," which was held June 15-17, 1999, the life of the mind is explored in a series of symposia through 2000. A "cybercast" of this symposium is available at http://www.connectlive.com/events/libraryofcongress through the end of 1999.

Exhibitions. The theme of "Libraries, Creativity, Liberty" will be reflected in the Library of Congress Bicentennial exhibitions. The first, celebrating creativity, is "The Work of Charles and Ray Eames: A Legacy of Invention," which opened in the Thomas Jefferson Building on May 20 and runs through Sept. 4, 1999. Celebrating libraries will be "John Bull and Uncle Sam: Four Centuries of British- American Relations, opening Nov. 17, 1999; and celebrating liberty is "Thomas Jefferson: Genius of Liberty," opening April 2000.

Photo Contest. The Center for the Book and the American Library Association have hosted local photography contests. National winners were announced this past June.

Performing Arts. The Music Division will commission music, dance and theater performances that represent the breadth, diversity and significance of America's musical heritage. The concert series for 1999-2000 will reflect the sweep of American music history and include a broad range of musical styles, genres and subjects.

Other Projects. The U.S. Postal Service will issue a commemorative stamp on the Library's 200th birthday, April 24, 2000. Also in honor of the Library's Bicentennial, two coins will be minted. A publication, The Library of Congress: Two Hundred Years, will be a comprehensive, illustrated history of the Library, to be published in April 2000 by Yale University Press. The Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress will be an illustrated one-volume reference work containing topical essays and approximately 150 shorter pieces that describe the Library's major collections. The restoration of the 1897 Thomas Jefferson Building will be reflected in the new Guide to the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress, with incomparable collections of books, films, photographs, prints, maps, sound recordings, musical scores, maps and digital materials, serves the research needs of the U.S. Congress and all Americans through its popular Web site (http://www.loc.gov) and in its 23 reading rooms on Capitol Hill.

For additional information or to learn about opportunities to participate in these projects, contact the Library of Congress Bicentennial Program Office at (202) 707-2000; toll free (800) 707-7145; e-mail: bicentennial@loc.gov; fax: (202) 707-7440. Information is also available on the Library's Bicentennial Web site at http://www.loc.gov/bicentennial.


PR 99-056
ISSN 0731-3527