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25 Years of LOC.gov

What does the Library of Congress website have in common with Justin Bieber, Harry Styles, Amazon.com, the TV show “Friends” and Netscape’s first web browser? Give up? They were all born 25 years ago. (If you had other guesses share them in the comments!)

We debuted our website at the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference in Miami on June 22, 1994. By the way, the ALA conference is in Washington, D.C. this week and today we expect thousands of attendees to visit the Library!

Since the launch of loc.gov we have put more of the Library online including U.S. federal legislative information, vital services from the U.S. Copyright Office and millions of items from our collections. It’s hard to pick highlights, but here goes:

  • Earliest known draft of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
  • “Migrant Mother” photo
  • Audio interviews with formerly enslaved people
  • Papers of Rosa Parks
  • Fire insurance maps that show the evolution of communities across America
  • Early motion pictures from Thomas Edison
  • WPA posters
  • Rare books
  • Historical newspapers

Just this year, online additions include the Omar Ibn Said Collection, featuring the only known extant narrative written in Arabic by an enslaved person in the U.S., thousands more public domain books, a collection of rare Persian language materials, the 2016 U.S. Election Web Archive, content exploring women’s suffrage including the papers of Carrie Chapman Catt, a new exhibition and crowdsourcing campaign.

We publish recordings of hundreds of events we host every year. Our curators tell great stories on our blogs and many of those stories are about how you use the Library.

We now receive two million visits each week to Library websites.

Even before the debut of our site in 1994, the Library was connecting with users via the Internet using Gopher, TELNET and File Transfer Protocol (FTP). The loc.gov domain was registered in 1990. Tom Littlejohn, an information technology specialist (who thankfully still works here), sent the first loc.gov e-mail in September 1990.

First loc.gov e-mail sent September 7, 1990. Do you know what your first e-mail was?

Nowadays, you don’t have to e-mail Tom if you need help. We have a whole crew of people standing by to answer your questions. You can also connect with us on social media.

Thank You, Web Archives

Our web archives allowed me to pull together this trip down memory lane of previous versions of the loc.gov home page. You can explore the history of thousands of websites thanks to our web archiving program. Do you remember any of these loc.gov looks from the past? Click on the image to explore the web archive.

June 16, 1997

Very early web archives didn’t consistently capture image content. As you can see, this has improved over the years.

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on June 16, 1997

May 5, 1999

We were getting ready for the Library’s bicentennial.

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on May 5, 1999

June 3, 2001

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on June 3, 2001

November 13, 2002

Note that part of the current Web Archive banner appears in the upper right of this screenshot.

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on November 13, 2002

April 19, 2005

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on April 19, 2005

July 20, 2008

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on July 20, 2008

July 29, 2010

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on July 29, 2010

December 21, 2012

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on December 21, 2012

October 1, 2014

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on October 1, 2014

February 14, 2018

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on February 14, 2018

June 20, 2019

No archive yet for this version of the website!

Screenshot of loc.gov home page on June 19, 2019

Whew, that was a long trip. Thanks for taking it with us. I’m not making any predictions about what this timeline will look like in another 25 years, or how we’ll be communicating with each other, but you can!

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