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How many items are stored in the Library of Congress?

The Library of Congress is the world's largest library and the country's oldest federal cultural institution. It has grown to be the world's largest repository of knowledge. According to recent statistics, the Library of Congress houses 75 million works, including many rare books, special collections, the world's largest maps, audio and video recordings, and so on. This library houses many extinct manuscripts.

The Library of Congress collected, organized, and preserved various historical documents, particularly those that record American history and contain the essence of all mankind's knowledge.

By 1901, the Library of Congress had become the first U.S. library to hold more than one million volumes, and the following decades saw a flood of books and journals as new scientific discoveries and political schools of thought accelerated the pace of intellectual production. Since 1950, the library's collections and staff have more than tripled; there are now more than 25 million books and more than 170 million other items in more than 470 languages, including photos, maps, periodicals, manuscripts, sheet music, telephone directories, and much more. Since its first audio recording, a wax cylinder of a speech by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, was acquired in 1904, the library's audio collection has grown to more than 2.6 million recordings.

Most valuable artifacts stored at the Library of Congress

1. America's Birth Certificate

14 Most Valuable Old Objects In The Library of Congress

The “birth certificate” is actually a world map described as the first document printed with the name “America.” Created by cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in 1507 CE and acquired by the Library of Congress in 2003, the world map has a mouthful of a Latin name: “Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii aliorū que lustratione,” which translates to “A drawing of the whole earth following the tradition of Ptolemy and the travels of Amerigo Vespucci and others.” To Americans today, the map probably looks fairly accurate, but to long-ago Europeans, “America” was a big chunk of unknown continent. The document is also the first map to show a separate Western Hemisphere and Pacific Ocean.

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2. Madison’s copy of the proposed Bill of Rights

As the nation debated ratifying the Constitution, anti-Federalists, including some of the original Constitution's drafters, pushed for the addition of a Bill of Rights to ensure citizens' most fundamental freedoms. The proposed amendments were drafted by James Madison, and ten of the twelve he proposed were ratified in December 1791.

3. Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence

In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. However, before it was officially adopted, the document was reviewed by a committee comprised of John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, which resulted in 47 changes, and by Congress, which resulted in 39 additional revisions. This rough draft reflects the numerous changes made to the document.

READ MORE: American National Anthem: Full Lyrics, History and Other Patriotic Songs

4. Amelia Earhart's Palm Print

14 Most Valuable Old Objects In The Library of Congress

Palmistry is the practice of studying someone's hands to determine their personality. Nellie Simmons Meier, a palmist, examined the hand prints of famed aviator Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1933 - four years before Earhart mysteriously disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. Meier wrote about Earheart in her book Lions' Paws: The Story of Famous Hands (the book's original prints and character analyses were donated to the Library of Congress):

"The length of the palm indicates a love of physical activity, but the restraining influence of the length of the fingers, which indicates attention to detail, allows her to make careful preparation toward achieving a specific goal."

5. Lewis and Clark map

This map is believed to have been carried by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition exploring the American West.

6. The North Star

The Library of Congress houses a comprehensive collection on the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, including the North Star newspaper, which he founded in 1847. "Right is of no Sex—Truth is of no Color—God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren," the paper's slogan says.

7. Lincoln's pocket contents

14 Most Valuable Old Objects In The Library of Congress

What was in Abraham Lincoln's pockets on April 14, 1865, when he was assassinated? In an effort to humanize Lincoln's mythic icon, the Library of Congress chose to display these mundane objects in 1976. Two pairs of spectacles and a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a watch fob, a linen handkerchief, and a brown leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate note and nine newspaper clippings, several of which are favorable to the president and his policies, are among the contents.

8. A sneeze caught on film

This print captures an employee of Thomas Edison sneezing--and reflects the motion-sequence experiments of Edison and others to do "for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear." The image was recorded by the Edison Kinetoscope.

9. Uncle Sam poster

James Montgomery Flagg created this poster as the cover for the July 6, 1916 issue of Leslie's Weekly. It quickly became an icon, with over four million copies printed between 1917 and 1918 and used in World War II and beyond.

10. Jackie Robinson comic book

Robinson, the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball in the twentieth century, inspired millions of fans while breaking down the color barrier—and leading an impressive baseball

11. Vietnam Veterans Memorial proposal

The drawing of Maya Lin, originally part of a student project at Yale University's School of Architecture, was chosen out of 1,421 submissions to become the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, now a compelling symbol of those who served in Vietnam and an iconic work of art and remembrance.

12. Locks Of Famous People's Hair

14 Most Valuable Old Objects In The Library of Congress

"Shiny, gleaming, flowing, flaxen, waxen... hair." Not so much any longer. Although these locks have lost their luster, the Library of Congress does have hair samples from famous people such as Thomas Jefferson, Walt Whitman, and James Madison. The cuttings were taken from Jefferson's deathbed by his family. Whitman's housekeeper cut a few strands of his hair off. Madison's clippings are neatly braided and stored in a velvet-lined gold case.

13. Movie Etiquette Slides

14 Most Valuable Old Objects In The Library of Congress

Modern-day movie theater annoyances that necessitate pre-film and on-screen warnings generally refer to turning off cell phones. In the early days of cinema, the big offenders were less technical but equally obtrusive: ladies’ hats.

The Library of Congress has a collection of slides from old movie theaters in the early 1900s with “movie etiquette” suggestions like “Applaud with hands only” and “If annoyed when here please tell the management.” Or, for women with towering headgear, “Madam how would you like to sit behind the hat you’re wearing.”

14. First Road Map/Guide Book Of The U.S.

14 Most Valuable Old Objects In The Library of Congress

Prior to the incorporation of geography into our phones and GPS systems, travelers relied on printed maps. Of course, someone had to draw the maps. Christopher Colles was one such individual. A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America, published in 1789 by the engineer-surveyor-cartographer, is considered the first road map of the United States (the year George Washington became president). Each page contains maps that cover a relatively short distance, making navigation easier and more detailed than paging through a larger map.

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