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.
After the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the delegates spread the word as quickly as possible by publishing it on a broadside sheet and delivering it throughout the Colonies. Copies of the Dunlap Broadside (named after the printer) are now extremely rare, with only about two dozen copies known to surive. The Library has two, one of which belonged to George Washington.
The stunningly complete, intellectually voracious files of J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, are preserved at the Library. The files fill more than 300 boxes that occupy a line of files that would stretch, if stacked end to end, more than 120 feet. That’s not including more than 70 boxes of research files compiled over 20 years by Martin J. Sherwin for his part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.” (Kai Bird shared the Pulitzer as a co-writer.) Those stretch another 27 feet. The files tell his epic life story in granular detail.
The papers of Ralph Ellison, one of the nation's greatest novelists of the 20th Century, are preserved at the LIbrary, including the sprawling mass of a manuscript that was edited into his posthumous novel, "Juneteenth."
No Jewish marriage is complete without a ketubah, a traditional legal document introduced during the wedding ceremony. The ketubah not only legitimizes the marriage but, following Jewish law, also spells out the groom’s financial and conjugal obligations to his bride during their life journey. The Library holds 11 of these ornate, beautiful traditional documents, spanning centuries and many nations.
The Lee Strasberg papers, held in the Manuscript Division, provide a unique glimpse into his Actors Studio, which created the influential style of Method Acting. In 1955, attendees signed in by hand, giving a snapshot of a galaxy of stars at work and producing a collector's dream of celebrity autographs: Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Harry Belafonte, Eva Marie Saint, Patricia Neal, Rod Steiger, Geraldine Page and Eli Wallach, among many others.
This winter, President Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, D.C., exhibited "Create to Free Yourselves: Abraham Lincoln and the History of Freeing Slaves in America," an installation by Georges Adéagbo. In creating it, Adéagbo visited the Library's Manuscript Division to research Lincoln's words and handwriting. Born in Benin, educated in Cote I and France, Adéagbo works internationally. Here, he talks about how he created the Lincoln project.
The Library's collections encompassing LGBTQ+ material spans centuries, inlucding unique holdings on world famous figures as well as the lives of every day people. Oscar WIlde, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Alvin Ailey, Leonard Bernstein and silent screen star Alla Nazimova are just some of the major names and collections represented here. Laws that either target or protect gay people are also preserved. This essay explores the range and the depth of the stories these collections reveal.
This is a guest post by Michelle Krowl, a historian in the Manuscript Division. It appears in the Jan.-Feb. issue of the Library of Congress Magazine. In the wake of emancipation during the Civil War, African Americans submitted petitions to government entities in greater numbers than ever before to advocate for equal treatment before the law. …