Robert Cornelius and the First Selfie

Robert Cornelius, a Philadelphia photographer, is believed to have taken the world’s first self-portrait — the first selfie — in 1839. The Library, which already had the world’s large collection of his work, in December acquired a donation from Cornelius’ great-great-grand-daughter, Sarah Bodine, of more of his photographic materials. Preservationists are now at work on the new donation.

Library of the Unexpected: Cocaine, Hair and…Wedding Cake?

The Library of Congress has unexpected items in its vast collections — the contents of Lincoln’s pockets when he was assassinated; cocaine used in a groundbreaking 19th-century surgery; a lock of Beethoven’s hair; 3,000 year old cuneiform tablets from modern-day Iraq; Mesoamerican incense burners that are more than 2,000 years old; and a piece of Tom Thumb’s wedding cake, now nearly 160 years old.

A New Vision for an Inspiring Location

Plans for a new renovation to the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, designed to offer more members of the public access to the Library’s inspiring architecture and comprehensive collections, include an oculus; a circular glass window that will allow visitors to look up to the dome from the orientation center below the Main Reading Room, where visitors will begin their Library journey.

Ada Limón, the Nation’s New Poet Laureate

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today announced that Ada Limon will serve as the nation’s 24th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2022-2023. She is the author of six poetry collections and is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.

The Neil Simon Collection: Now Playing at the Library of Congress

The Library now has the papers and collected works of Neil Simon, the most commercially successful playwright in American history and one of the most honored. “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Odd Couple,” “The Sunshine Boys,” “Biloxi Blues,” “Plaza Suite,” “Lost in Yonkers.” By the time he died at age 91 in 2018, he his career included 28 Broadway plays, five musicals, 11 original screenplays and 14 film adaptations of his own work. The Library’s collection includes more than 180 titled works that Simon began, many of them completed but never published or produced.

Mississippi Author Jesmyn Ward: Winner of the 2022 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced today that the 2022 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction will be awarded to Jesmyn Ward. The 45-year-old Mississippian is the two-time winner of the National Book Award for the novels “Salvage the Bones” and “Sing, Unburied, Sing” among other major literary awards.

Toy Theaters: 19th Century Home Entertainment

The Library has dozens of 19th century animated toy theaters that were wildly popular in Europe and the United States, displaying dashing stories of pirates, undersea adventures, magic and adventure. Conservators have been painstakingly mending damage caused by historical use, making sure researchers can draw insights from the theaters for years to come.

Len Downie: The Washington Post Papers

The papers of Leonard Downie Jr., who started as an intern at The Washington Post in the 1960s concluded his career with a 17-year run as executive editor, are now available for researchers in the Library’s Manuscript Division. They offer insight on the Post’s inner workings on such stories as Watergate, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, the Valerie Plame affair, 9/11, the Unabomber and much more.