July 9, 1999 Fact Sheet: Library of Congress Bicentennial Celebration "Gifts to the Nation" Project

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217

On April 14, 1999, the Library of Congress launched its Bicentennial celebration and "Gifts to the Nation" project with the announcement that $1 million had been donated for the re-creation of Thomas Jefferson's personal library.

"The Gifts to the Nation project is one way we are celebrating 200 years of existence as the world's largest library," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "The re-creation of Jefferson's library and the other gifts the Library is seeking will help create a collection truly befitting the historic occasion of looking back at our past 200 years and looking forward to the start of a new millennium."

The Gifts to the Nation project takes a major step forward, enabling the Library, once again, to house the "seed" collection from which its incomparable collections have grown.

In 1815, Thomas Jefferson sold the Library 6,487 volumes from his personal collection for the sum of $23,950 after the original Library of Congress collections were lost in the Capitol fire set by the British in 1814. (From 1800 until the Jefferson Building opened in 1897, the Library was housed in the Capitol.) Then, in 1851, nearly two-thirds of Jefferson's books were destroyed in another Capitol fire. Because of the breadth of Jefferson's collections, the collections of the Library are national and international in scope and nearly universal in the subjects they cover.

As part of the Gifts to the Nation project, the Library will enrich its collections with other materials that curators throughout the institution have identified as historically significant items that would add to the depth and diversity of existing collections. The curators' recommendations have been forwarded to the James Madison Council, the Library's private sector advisory group, which will help the Library seek donors to make these acquisitions possible.

Other Gifts to the Nation projects will endow chairs for visiting scholars and the Library's subject specialists to use the collections and publish studies about them, making the materials' availability to researchers more widely known.

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PR 99-056a
1999-07-09
ISSN 0731-3527