The Library of Congress Experience

Interactive technology sheds new light on ancient treasures.

by / April 11, 2008

Earlier this year, the Library of Congress and Microsoft announced a joint initiative to create the Library of Congress Experience, a multi-faceted, technology-rich experience allowing people to access the library's treasures both in person and online.

Opening on April 12, the Library of Congress Experience is housed in the Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C., and features rarely seen items as well as new exhibits enhanced by interactive technology. For example, the library houses a number of priceless manuscripts, which cannot be manually examined. New interactive exhibit stations, accompanying such prized works as the Gutenberg Bible, allow visitors to behold the work with their eyes and flip through its pages in a virtual environment.

Other features of the experience include touchscreens that let visitors experience artifacts in 3-D, an electronic look at the documents (and their early drafts) that shaped the nation, even a digital version of Jefferson's own personal library and the cataloging system he devised.

Another important part of the launch of the experience is the rollout of a program the library calls the Passport to Knowledge. The Passport to Knowledge is a system of bar codes located on each exhibit in the experience. As visitors pass through the Jefferson Building, they can tag exhibits that interest them. Once home, people can log on to the library's new Web site,, to access their tags and learn more by cross-referencing their tagged subject matter with other resources within the library's vast archives. also will feature multimedia content such as MP3s, podcasts and library-related games.

"Visitors to the new Library of Congress Experience will find an amazing place where they will experience highlights of the largest collection anywhere of the world's knowledge and America's creativity," said James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress, in a prepared statement. "They will meet the richness of the past, spark their own curiosity and imagination, and continue the adventure of learning online, at home."


Chad Vander Veen

Chad Vander Veen is the former editor of FutureStructure.