Library of Congress

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The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress and is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and holds the largest number of books.


The Library of Congress was established by Congress in 1800, and was housed in the United States Capitol for most of the 19th century. After much of the original collection had been destroyed during the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson sold the library 6487 books, his entire personal library, in 1815.

The Library's primary mission is researching inquiries made by members of Congress through the Congressional Research Service; although it is open to the public, only legislators, Supreme Court justices and other high-ranking government officials may check out books. Through the United States Copyright Office, the Library of Congress also receives copies of every book, pamphlet, map, print, and piece of music registered in the United States.


It has all magic books formally copyrighted in the United States. In addition, it houses (in its Rare Book Division) the Houdini Collection (5,200 books on magic donated by his will in 1926) and the McManus-Young Collection (donated in 1955).

The Library of Congress sponsors privately endowed programs that honor achievement in the humanities and creativity. Through these awards and prizes, the world's greatest repository of human creativity honors those who have advanced and embodied the ideals of individual creativity, conviction, dedication, scholarship and exuberance. Established during its Bicentennial celebration in 2000, the Library of Congress' "Living Legend" award is selected by the Library's curators and subject specialists to honor artists, writers, activists, filmmakers, physicians, entertainers, sports figures and public servants who have made significant contributions to America's diverse cultural, scientific and social heritage. The only magician honored so far is David Copperfield.

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