Ever wonder what legendary tenor Enrico Caruso sounded like? Have you ever wanted to see Ty Cobb’s 1911 baseball card? Do you need a newspaper article from the time of the Great Depression? How about a photograph from the Civil War? Or a photograph of a dinosaur? (Okay, just kidding on that last one…I wanted to see if you were paying attention.)
These are just a few of the kinds of things you can find at the excellent website of the Library of Congress at www.loc.gov. In case you were wondering, yes, the Library of Congress is more than just a huge collection of books (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – the LOC has manuscripts, maps, legal materials, sheet music, sound recordings, and perhaps a few things they have forgotten to list. Find out more about the LOC’s collections by clicking here. Since we can’t all make a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. to experience these resources first-hand, the Library of Congress has helped us all out by digitizing portions of the collection, “concentrating on its most rare collections and those unavailable anywhere else.” This is an ongoing process, and more content is being added almost daily. Although the percentage of the total collection that is available online is fairly small, the LOC’s collection is so vast that there is still a huge amount available online.
When you go to the LOC homepage, look for the “Collection Highlights” box in the middle of the screen. Here you will find such selections as American Memory, Prints and Photographs, Historic Newspapers, Sound Recordings, and Manuscripts. Not all of the Collection Highlights are digitized, though, so you may prefer to choose “Digital Collections” at the top of the screen to go to the digital content only. You can also use the Search box at the top right-hand corner to search the entire loc.gov site.
There is a lot of content that is just plain fun to explore, but there is a wealth of material relevant to academic pursuits as well. Even though this website was named one of the 100 best websites by 100bestwebsites.org, I think this is an under-utilized and under-appreciated resource. I encourage everyone to take some time to investigate the LOC website, both for fun and education.