25 Years of LOC.gov

What does the Library of Congress website have in common with Justin Bieber, Harry Styles, Amazon.com, the TV show “Friends” and Netscape’s first web browser? Give up? They were all born 25 years ago. (If you had other guesses share them in the comments!)

We debuted our website at the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference in Miami on June 22, 1994. By the way, the ALA conference is in Washington, D.C. this week and today we expect thousands of attendees to visit the Library!

Since the launch of loc.gov we have put more of the Library online including U.S. federal legislative information, vital services from the U.S. Copyright Office and millions of items from our collections. It’s hard to pick highlights, but here goes:

Just this year, online additions include the Omar Ibn Said Collection, featuring the only known extant narrative written in Arabic by an enslaved person in the U.S., thousands more public domain books, a collection of rare Persian language materials, the 2016 U.S. Election Web Archive, content exploring women’s suffrage including the papers of Carrie Chapman Catt, a new exhibition and crowdsourcing campaign.

We publish recordings of hundreds of events we host every year. Our curators tell great stories on our blogs and many of those stories are about how you use the Library.

We now receive two million visits each week to Library websites.

Even before the debut of our site in 1994, the Library was connecting with users via the Internet using Gopher, TELNET and File Transfer Protocol (FTP). The loc.gov domain was registered in 1990. Tom Littlejohn, an information technology specialist (who thankfully still works here), sent the first loc.gov e-mail in September 1990.

This is a test message to attempt the first mail message from lc to the outside world via the Internet.
First loc.gov e-mail sent September 7, 1990. Do you know what your first e-mail was?

Nowadays, you don’t have to e-mail Tom if you need help. We have a whole crew of people standing by to answer your questions. You can also connect with us on social media.

Thank You, Web Archives

Our web archives allowed me to pull together this trip down memory lane of previous versions of the loc.gov home page. You can explore the history of thousands of websites thanks to our web archiving program. Do you remember any of these loc.gov looks from the past? Click on the image to explore the web archive.

June 16, 1997

Very early web archives didn’t consistently capture image content. As you can see, this has improved over the years.

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on June 16, 1997

May 5, 1999

We were getting ready for the Library’s bicentennial.

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on May 5, 1999

June 3, 2001

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on June 3, 2001

November 13, 2002

Note that part of the current Web Archive banner appears in the upper right of this screenshot.

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on November 13, 2002

April 19, 2005

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on April 19, 2005

July 20, 2008

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on July 20, 2008

July 29, 2010

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on July 29, 2010

December 21, 2012

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on December 21, 2012

October 1, 2014

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on October 1, 2014

February 14, 2018

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on February 14, 2018

June 20, 2019

No archive yet for this version of the website!

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on June 19, 2019

Whew, that was a long trip. Thanks for taking it with us. I’m not making any predictions about what this timeline will look like in another 25 years, or how we’ll be communicating with each other, but you can!

Subscribe to the blog— it’s free! — and the largest library in world history will send cool stories straight to your inbox.

This Day in History: Deadliest Hurricane Ever Strikes Galveston

A little more than a year ago, Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast as a category 4 storm, bringing damaging rain and flooding. Less than a month later, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico with heavy downpours and sustained winds of 155 miles an hour – only two miles an hour shy of a category 5 […]

This Day in History: Wright Brothers Take Flight

On a dark and windy morning on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, 114 years ago this Sunday, Orville Wright took flight in a tiny airplane he and his brother Wilbur had painstakingly constructed. The 605-pound craft flew all of 120 feet and remained airborne only 12 seconds. After Orville’s first success, Wilbur set the […]

This Day in History: James Baldwin

This post draws on an essay about Baldwin’s life and achievements by Alan Gevinson of the Library’s National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. James Baldwin was born 93 years ago today, on August 2, 1924, in New York City. His many novels include his first, “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (1953), considered an American classic. He […]

This Day in History: Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty arrived at its permanent home on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor at 1 p.m. on June 19, 1885, “snugly packed in the hold of the French transport Isère,” according to a New York Times report the following day. Multiple delegations of dignitaries, 20,000 citizens, and “every species of craft known […]

President for a Day

All eyes turn to Washington this week, as the nation’s 45th president is inaugurated on January 20. However, until the passage of the 20th Amendment in 1933, inauguration day was always March 4 in order to allow enough time after Election Day for officials to gather election returns and for newly elected candidates to travel to […]

What Time Is It?

With the recent “fall back” of daylight saving time, we had to reset our clocks and maybe our brains to get used to the change. And, if you’re someone that conducts business in different time zones, that adjustment can take additional getting used to. I know I always have trouble remembering how far ahead or behind […]