The Library of Congress and ‘The Books that Shaped America’

The Library of Congress is celebrating books in a new an unique way. Beginning June 25th and running until September 29, 2012, they are presenting a list of “The Books the Shaped America.” Here’s more from their press release:

The Library of Congress–the world’s largest repository of knowledge and information–is beginning its multiyear “Celebration of the Book” with an exhibition, “Books That Shaped America,” opening June 25. The exhibition is part of a larger series of programs, symposia and other events that explore the important and varied ways that books influence our lives.

The “Books That Shaped America” exhibition will be on view from June 25 through Sept. 29 in the Southwest Gallery, located on the second floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. This exhibition is made possible through the support of the National Book Festival Fund.

On view in the exhibition are many rare editions from the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division, as well as other related items chosen from various parts of the Library.

“This list of ‘Books That Shaped America’ is a starting point. It is not a register of the ‘best’ American books–although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “We hope people will view the list and then nominate other titles. Finally, we hope people will choose to read and discuss some of the books on this list, reflecting our nation’s unique and extraordinary literary heritage, which the Library of Congress makes available to the world.”

Members of the public are encouraged to comment on the books in this exhibition in a survey on the Library’s National Book Festival website (www.loc.gov/bookfest/) and to nominate other titles for subsequent additions to “Books That Shaped America.”

Curators and experts from throughout the Library of Congress contributed their choices for “Books That Shaped America,” but there was much debate in having to cut worthy titles from a much larger list in order to accommodate the physical restrictions of the exhibition space. Some of the titles on display have been the source of great controversy, even derision, in U.S. history. Nevertheless, they shaped Americans’ views of their world and the world’s views of America.

The Library of Congress, with collections that are universal and comprise all media, has a long history of acknowledging the importance of books. It does this through its many and varied book symposia and author discussions, held year-round; through exhibitions, such as the display of Thomas Jefferson’s Library, which formed the “seed” of today’s Library of Congress; and through its annual National Book Festival on the National Mall.

Also on June 25, the “Celebration of the Book” includes a daylong conference, “Creating a Dynamic, Knowledge-Based Democracy,” to mark the enduring legacies of three key events that shaped America: passage of the Morrill Act (establishing land-grant universities), the founding of the National Academy of Sciences and the founding of the Carnegie libraries. The conference, free and open to the public, is sponsored by Carnegie Corporation of New York, a grant-making foundation established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911.

The 12th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival (www.loc.gov/bookfest/), to be held on Sept. 22-23, is another major event during the “Celebration of the Book.”

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.

You can see the complete list here. 

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