Digital Collections from the Library of Congress Support Self-Directed Studies

Digital Collections from the Library of Congress Support Self-Directed Studies

Established in 1800 when President John Adams signed a bill into law that transferred the US government seat from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, the Library of Congress has served as a congressional reference library for over two hundred years. Though the collection created in the library’s early years was lost in a fire in 1814 (the result of British invasion of Washington, DC), the library has grown to be the largest in the world! Serving as a home for endless texts, volumes, and archived materials relevant to the study of American history and culture, the world of science, world religions and philosophy, and countless other topics, the Library of Congress is an incredible resource. And thanks to the internet, a vast collection of materials from the library are available anywhere via online archives!  

For families engaging in self-directed studies of history, the Library of Congress’ digital collections offer opportunities to explore a wealth of resources highlighting an array of topics that is almost endless. The Library of Congress’ digital collections are constantly growing, and provide resources in a variety of formats. Families searching the archives can peruse everything from audio recordings, newspapers, and maps, to copies of legislation, web pages, and even 3D objects!

With such breadth and depth of information available, it could be easy to get lost. Navigating the Library of Congress’ digital collections is made easier by the fact that information and resources are organized into collections based on topic. Additionally, folks utilizing the digital collections can search by keyword (much like a library-based Google search), and results generated from keyword searches can be further narrowed by choosing a specific format (original or online), geographical location, collection, or even date (to the decade).

By taking advantage of the way in which the library’s online resources are organized, families can use the digital collections in many different ways. Families wishing to study a specific topic, time period, or theme can utilize the keyword search and search-narrowing options in order to locate specific information and resources. Meanwhile, families interested in learning very generally about a topic can use the broad nature of the keyword search to their advantage by treating the resources generated through a search as if they were a stack of books to peruse – skimming articles, reading book descriptions, listening to sound bites, and looking at maps, photographs, and diagrams, all in order to glean general information about a topic.

To learn more about the history of the Library of Congress, pick up a copy of Barb Rosenstock and John O’Brien’s Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library from your local library!

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