By Michelle Rago
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. (Did you have other guesses?)
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 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.
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 caption to explore the web archive.
June 16, 1997
May 5, 1999
June 3, 2001
November 13, 2002
April 19, 2005
July 20, 2008
July 29, 2010
December 21, 2012
October 1, 2014
February 14, 2018
June 20, 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!
Michelle Rago is a digital content strategist at the Library of Congress.