David McCullough’s Must-See Experience

If you traveled to Washington, D.C., and had time to see just one attraction, what would it be? The Capitol? The White House? Maybe the National Mall?

On Saturday, noted historian David McCullough, who was inducted as a “Living Legend,” said that our new exhibition “Creating the United States” — part of the new Library of Congress Experience — was tops on his list. The exact quote:

“I saw yesterday an exhibition which every American ought to see: ‘Creating the U.S.’ If visitors to this, our capital city, whether they’re from our own country or from abroad, were to see only one exhibition, one building, one place during their visit, seeing ‘Creating the U.S.’ would be the one to see.”

I shot some admittedly amateurish video at our April 12 grand opening festivities for the Experience, and I thought McCullough’s speech was what I just had to share first. (Sorry for the silhouette effect, though.) Hopefully, time permitting, more will follow.

UPDATE: A transcript of his full remarks follows the jump.

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To Thomas: Happy Birthday. From: Your Library.

Tomorrow we’re having a party. Maybe you’ve heard.

The Library of Congress is throwing open its bronze doors to the public for the first time since 1990 to celebrate the new Library of Congress Experience, a project for which I have run out of superlatives, so I will leave the descriptions to sources of less bias. (Those doors, entering directly into the spectacular Great Hall, will now be the main entrance to the Thomas Jefferson Building from the outside.)

We are celebrating Congress’s Library—everything that Congress has done to sustain this institution for 208 years, including not just financial support, but also the decision by the Congress to make the Library of Congress the nation’s copyright repository.

But there was also a singular act of Congress dating back nearly 200 years, a matter of some controversy at the time, that would forever change the course of the Library of Congress and our collecting philosophy. That is to say, after the British used the contents of the original Library to burn the Capitol in 1814, Congress the following year purchased the 6,487-volume personal library of Thomas Jefferson, which “recommenced” the Library and helped establish the “universal” nature of our collections.

This Sunday is Jefferson’s 265th birthday, but tomorrow his original Library goes back on display in stunning fashion in the building that bears his name, one important aspect of an Experience our visitors will never forget.

The Washington Post today ran a great story (front page!) about Thomas Jefferson’s library, and our own staff newsletter, The Library of Congress Gazette, examined the story behind Thomas Jefferson’s library in even greater detail, which I have reproduced in full after the jump, led by our crackerjack editor, Gail Fineberg.

One aspect of the story I’d like to underscore because of the viral nature of the Web: The Library, in a project funded by Jerry and Gene Jones, has spent several years reconstructing Jefferson’s library, roughly two-thirds of which perished in 1851 in yet another fire. We need to replace only about 300 of the 6,487 original titles, so insofar as this can be considered a plea to the rare-book blogosphere, well, that’s on the table.

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A Little Refreshing at the Library

As part of our new Library of Congress Experience, the Library has been updating a lot of our materials and signage around our Capitol Hill complex. If our renovation in 1997 was a facelift for the Thomas Jefferson Building, then maybe we’ll call this a touch of Botox. Some of the most noticeable changes include […]

Time To Celebrate!

If you haven’t seen, we have just released details of our April 12 public festivities launching the wonderful, new Library of Congress Experience. You can read all about it here and, as always, keep up to date on all aspects of the Experience here.

"Ad"ded Value for the Library

In the PR biz, there is what is known as “earned” media — the kind where you work the phones and email in order to interest a reporter into covering your story. And then there is paid media, which, of course, are generally in the form of advertisements. Every once in a while, however, the […]

Library of Congress Experience Sneak Preview

This past Monday, Cheryl Regan of the Library’s Interpretive Programs Office (i.e., she’s in charge of exhibitions) was gracious enough to allow me to tip-toe around the fabrication materials and power tools over in the Thomas Jefferson Building and lead me on a behind-the-scenes tour of the installation of our new Library of Congress Experience.

We’re having a big public celebration and grand opening on April 12 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., so if you’re in DC, stop by to “explore, discover and be inspired.” (That’s the tagline that folks in the DC are hopefully starting to see on ads.) There will be plenty of time for a visit after the Cherry Blossom Parade ends.

There is truly a tremendous amount of activity occurring in the building (which is closed to the public, except the reading rooms, until April 12), and I just walked back from there to see that so much progress has been made even since I shot this video. Nevertheless, I hope it whets your appetite.

There is so much more I could have shown too, but I wanted to come in under the YouTube 10-minute limit. And for those of you who want to see the Library do even more with video behind my first rather amateurish attempt, well, just you wait.

A full transcript follows after the jump …

UPDATE: I replaced the herky-jerky video from the original post with a better version.

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Flickr Webcast Goes Online

Knowing there is great reader interest in the “Flickr project,” I wanted to let everyone know that a webcast from a couple of months ago detailing the evolution and initial successes of the program, featuring our own staff along with George Oates of Flickr, is now online here. It’s pretty interesting stuff, and I’ve never […]

Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

Did you know that the Library of Congress has some of the best baseball-related collections you can see anywhere, perhaps outside of Cooperstown itself? It’s true: The nation’s library is home to quite a trove of memorabilia about the national pastime. To help celebrate the opening of the new Nationals Park in just a few […]