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Library of Congress

The history...

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world and serves as the research arm of the United States Congress. Its rich history reflects the nation's dedication to knowledge and cultural preservation.

Established on April 24, 1800, the Library of Congress was initially housed in the United States Capitol. President John Adams signed an act of Congress providing $5,000 to purchase books for the use of Congress. The original collection consisted of 740 books and three maps. However, during the War of 1812, British forces set fire to the Capitol, destroying the library's collection.

In response to this loss, former President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. In 1815, Congress purchased Jefferson's extensive collection of 6,487 books, which significantly broadened the library's scope and laid the foundation for its future growth. Jefferson's vision of a universal collection, encompassing a wide range of subjects and languages, continues to influence the library's acquisitions to this day.

The Library of Congress expanded significantly in the 19th century, necessitating a move to its own building. The Thomas Jefferson Building, the library's first dedicated structure, opened to the public in 1897. Its ornate design and vast reading rooms symbolized the library's importance and ambition.

Throughout the 20th century, the Library of Congress continued to grow, adding the John Adams Building in 1938 and the James Madison Memorial Building in 1980. These expansions provided much-needed space for the ever-growing collections.

Today, the Library of Congress holds more than 170 million items, including books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and recordings. It serves not only as a vital resource for Congress but also as a repository of the nation's cultural and historical heritage.

The library is open to the public for research, although only high-ranking government officials and library employees may check out books and materials.

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Washington D.C., journey on...

Founded after the American Revolution, it's now the capital of the US.