Where can you find everything from Thomas Jefferson’s vanilla ice cream recipe to more than 140,000 comic books?
At the Library of Congress—the largest library in the world! The library houses millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps, and manuscripts in its collections. It’s also the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.
• Year founded: 1800
• Total items: more than 170 million
• Oldest written material: a cuneiform tablet from 2040 B.C.
• Languages represented: approximately 470
The Library of Congress was originally founded in 1800, but the core collection was destroyed in 1814 when British troops burned the Capitol building, where the library was housed. The next year, Congress approved the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library of 6,487 books for $23,950. The collection has grown just a bit since then as it now receives some
15,000 items each working day and now houses more than 170 million items!
With such a large collection, there is no shortage of UNIQUE and rare items. The Library of Congress purchased a copy of the Gutenberg Bible in 1930, and the 15th-century work is one of three perfect copies on vellum in the world. The library's Prints and Photographs Division contains more than 17 million visual images, and the Geography and Map Division holds more than 5.6 million items, making it the home of the world's largest collection of cartographic materials. The library also contains materials in approximately 470 languages!
Each year, the National Recording Registry (NRR) at the Library of Congress also chooses 25 recordings that document the range and diversity of our country’s sound. This year, the NRR selected “It’s a Small World,” the theme song to one of Disney’s most iconic rides, to add to its collection. The song has been played more than 50 million times since it debuted in 1964!
The Library of Congress is located across the country in Washington D.C., but you can explore the library online as well.