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The Library of Congress Experience and

By Alice Kurtz - Posted Jul 1, 2008
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Located online at: and  

Access Fee: None.

Audience: Middle and high school students through adults.

Format: Two websites using interactive technologies to offer access to selected collections from the Library of Congress.

Minimum System Requirements: A computer with internet access and a web browser.

Some programs (such as Silverlight 1.0 or 2.0) are required to view documents. These programs can be downloaded at the website.

Description: The two companion websites, the Library of Congress Experience and, offer opportunities to explore one of the premier repositories of information in the U.S., the Library of Congress.

Report Card

Overall Rating: *****

Installation: A

Content/Features: A

Ease of Use: A

Product Support: A

Reviewer Comments:

Access: The Library of Congress Experience, a free website, requires no registration. The site loaded quickly with no problems.

The myLOC website is accessed for free after registering an email address and password. There was no problem getting access to the site. I installed Silverlight directly from the site with no problems and no operation glitches. Access Rating: A

Content/Features: The free Library of Congress Experience website allows for the previsit exploration of current Library exhibits. The site also permits the public to submit creative works such as stories, poems, videos, and photos—anything that can be transmitted electronically—to be considered for addition to the Library's permanent collection.

myLOC, the free companion website to the Library of Congress Experience, is the site most likely to be used in a school setting. myLOC enables users to experience a vicarious visit to the Library's current exhibits through a host of multimedia presentations.

The myLOC site also offers lesson plans related to selected documents and realia, a Select and Store feature to help users identify items in the collection for future use, as well as related readings and websites for additional study. Online activities include the opportunity to "draft" the Declaration of Independence and interactive tours of the Library's art and architecture.

Each exhibit begins with its own homepage. Navigation is made easy by a tabbed menu bar and a "cookie crumb" trail at the top of the page that points back to the homepage. The formats of all of the exhibits follow a similar pattern, with features including Overview, Themes, Interactives, Programs, Object List, and Learn More.

At the time of this review, the four available exhibits on the website included Exploring the Early Americas, Creating the United States, Thomas Jefferson’s Library, and the Library of Congress Bible Collection.

The Exploring the Early Americas exhibit provides an incredibly rich experience that covers the precontact world of the Americas with a focus on the Mayan culture, the explorations of the Spanish, and the aftermath of the encounter of the two cultures.

The text of each theme is illustrated with documents, maps, drawings, prints, artifacts, and other primary source materials selected to provide a great depth of knowledge. Each theme is broken down into smaller segments. Pre-Contact America, for example, includes subjects such as Urban Landscapes, Language and Context, The Heavens and Time, and more. All of the artifacts and documents may be enlarged; links to specific materials may be added to a user’s collection for later use.

As students dig deeper into each theme, the path back to the homepage follows them. This is a wonderful feature in light of the depth of these exhibitions.

The Interactives segment offers the ability to examine artifacts, books, and documents in detail. In an exploration of writing and hieroglyphs on artifacts from the Mayan culture, for example, each vessel can be manipulated so that very fine detail may be observed. A text and audio accompaniment is provided for each item.

The Programs section provides a list of LC programming related to the exhibition, including upcoming speakers and discussions. The Object List offers a quick scan of all of the materials and documents in an exhibit. This is an easy way to locate items to add to a personal collection for later use.

The Learn More feature offers resources for further study, including links to other exhibits and collections within the LC and elsewhere. This feature also links to lesson plans for selected items in the collection.

At the time of this review, the lesson plans available for the Exploring the Early Americas exhibit included Waldseemüller’s Map: World 1507, Drake’s West Indian Voyage 1588–1589, and the Huexotzinco Codex.

The lesson focused on the study of the Huexotzinco Codex encourages students to analyze a set of pictograph documents created by native peoples of Puebla, Mexico, in 1531. The students take on the role of historians as they study the documents and create a scenario to explain what these documents were for, who created them, and why they were created.

The Read More About It feature lists reading materials for adult readers and provides a separate list of suggested reading material for young readers.

The Creating the United States exhibition allows the user to examine the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The presentation is identical in format to Exploring Early America; however, the Learn More section here includes lists and links to webcasts on the topic.

The Thomas Jefferson’s Library exhibit gives the user a chance to examine the collections in Jefferson’s library thematically grouped by Memory, Reason, and Imagination—which Jefferson interpreted as History, Philosophy, and Fine Arts, respectively. This exhibit also includes a virtual tour of the Jefferson Library at the Library of Congress.

The final exhibition at the time of this review, the Library of Congress Bible Collection, offers an opportunity to view the handwritten Giant Bible of Mainz and the printed Gutenberg Bible, as well as 16 selected bibles from the LC’s collection. The exhibit examines the end of the reign of the handwritten book and the beginning of the ascendancy of the printed page.

Each exhibit provides a very rich experience for the user. The online materials can be used in a host of learning experiences, especially when a visit to the Library of Congress is not feasible.

Additional tools to personalize the user experience will be available by the end of 2008. These include links to a Passport to Knowledge feature that will enable users to bookmark selected exhibits from LC visits for additional study on the myLOC site from school or home. In addition, Knowledge Quest, a game-based learning adventure, will be available at the Library of Congress and online at myLOC. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The beauty of myLOC is its ease of navigation. The user will not get lost in the exhibitions due to the helpful on-screen paths included throughout the exhibits. There are always at least two trails to follow through the screens.

Selecting objects for an individual’s future use collection can be done with a simple click. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: The operation of this site is straightforward and intuitive. If a user needs support, an on-screen Help feature provides a list of instructions. A Contact Us button links to an email feedback form. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: The two new website projects from the Library of Congress bring Library exhibits directly into the classroom.

The exhibitions offer great materials to encourage curiosity and excitement in the lessons and study units of American history. Students can view Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 and 1516 maps of America in a textbook, but nothing can replace the excitement of actually manipulating those maps on the computer. Reading about the Maya becomes even more engaging when students can examine actual artifacts from that culture.

The interactive nature of the online exhibits brings a clearer understanding of important subjects. The organization of the materials, the added resources, and the ease of navigation make these sites easy for anyone to use. They are recommended highly.

Reviewer: Alice Kurtz, 5/6 grade teacher, Irving B. Weber School, Iowa City, IA.

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