Nathan Dorn is the curator of the rare books collection at the Law Library of Congress. He builds the Library's holdings of centuries of legal texts from many nations, including early methods of legal procedures to unusual subjects such as witchcraft and miracles.
Some of the U.S. military's best intelligence assets during both World Wars were Native American troops who used their own, unwritten languages as the basis for coded radio messages. These Code Talkers, particularly Navajo Marines, were invaluable in the Pacific theater of World War II. Twenty-nine Navajo Code Talkers were later awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Many of these soldiers' personal stories are preserved in the LIbrary's Veterans History Project.
Ernest Hemingway recorded more than four hours of personal stories, dictation and friends playing music at his home in Cuba during 1949-50 for his friend and future biographer A.E. Hotchner. Those recordings, part of the Library's Hotchner collection, show Hemingway at home with friends, but also how uncomfortable he was with the technology. The tapes have been used by multiple Hemingway biographers.
The Wright Brothers collection in the Library is a marvel, a rare combination of significance and candor that details how Orville and Wilbur became the first to achieve powered flight and usher the world into a new age. The collection includes more than 31,000 items -- personal letters from family members, diaries, scrapbooks, engineering sketches -- and more than 300 historic glass-print negatives. You can chart the family’s entire odyssey here, from small-town Midwestern simplicity to worldwide fame, from youthful newspaper publishers to bicycle shop owners to builders of the world’s first airplanes.
Hans Christian Andersen created wrote timeless fairy tales ("The Little Mermaid," "The Ugly Duckling") but also created handmade picture books as gifts for children of a few acquaintances.The Library holds one of them, assembled by Andersen and his friend Adolph Drewsen in 1862 for Drewsen’s 8-year-old grandson, Jonas. The picture book is part of a collection of first editions, manuscripts, letters and presentation copies gathered over a 30-year span by Danish actor Jean Hersholt — probably the most comprehensive collection of Andersen material in America.
Since 2006, the Library’s Teaching with Primary Sources program has been empowering educators to make use of the Library’s digitized collections in a vast array of subjects. Lee Ann Potter, the Library's director of educational outreach, writes about several schools that use historical documents, photographs, maps and other resources to help students gain an understanding of the past.
When the Library opens its new Treasures Gallery next year, displaying some of the most striking papers and artifacts that span some 4,000 years, one of them will certainly stand out: The Blackwell's Kinfolk Family Tree. It's a dizzying, almost overwhelming piece of folk art that depicts the genealogical history of an African American family from Virginia. It's 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide, contains more than 1,500 names spread out on curving trunks, branches and leaves and details family connections from 1789 to the 1970s. Its most famous member? Arthur Ashe Jr., the tennis great.
One of the largest maps in the Library is the Tokaido bunken-ezu, a 117-foot, 17th-century Japanese map painted on two scrolls. It shows, in pen-and-ink detail, the rivers, mountains, forests and towns on the 319-mile route from Edo (now known as Tokyo) to Kyoto.
Cheryl Regan is a veteran of the Library's exhibits office, bringing the treasures of the world's largest library to the public. Here, she answers a few questions about her work with exhibitions such as "With Malice Towards None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition" and "American Treasures." The latter ran for 10 years.