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October 3, 1996

Few people -- even those living in Washington, D.C. -- ever have the time, willpower, or ability to visit one of this country's most extraordinary resources: the Library of Congress. But the world's largest library is now an established presence on the Web, offering access to reference materials, catalogue data, legislative texts, copyright information, and much more.


The most compelling area of the LOC site -- if it's not just raw information that you're in search of -- is the Exhibitions area. Drawing upon the expertise of its archivists and the vastness of its holdings, the LOC is currently featuring twelve virtual exhibits on topics as varied as "Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents," "The Russian Church and Native Alaskan Cultures," "Treasures from the Bibliothèque nationale de France," and "African-American Culture and History." The historical and cultural context these exhibits provide is first-rate, but what is most compelling is the access offered, at the click of a mouse, to a copy of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln's handwriting, or a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls, or the Soviet memo ordering the forced collectivization that led to the horrific Ukranian famine of the 1930s. These examples only scratch the surface; a quick visit to see what else is on display is well worth your time. Be warned, however: graphics-heavy exhibits sometimes make moving around a bit slow. But it's still an awful lot faster than traveling to the LOC in person.

Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.

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