Library of Congress gets more interactive

The Library of Congress today announced that it had signed a cooperative agreement with Microsoft to make the library's collection of historical artifacts more immediately available to patrons, both online and while visiting the library's Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington.

Microsoft will be providing an initial grant of technology, services and funding valued at more than $3 million to enhance the online accessibility and interactivity of about 800 of the Library of Congress' prominent holdings.

Library officials announced that they had reached a non-exclusive agreement to use Microsoft software to power a series of new library search and viewing tools that will be launched in 2008. As part of the program, new kiosks that highlight featured documents at the library will run on Microsoft Vista software. Microsoft Silverlight technology will help power the library's upcoming launch of its new Web site,, where users can access and personalize similar interactive materials.

The 'Exploring the Early Americas' exhibition, which opened Dec. 13, 2007, debuted the new technology. And throughout 2008, the library plans to make new holdings interactive with the new program, including the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible, the 1507 Waldseem
ller World Map that first used the word 'America,' and original volumes from Thomas Jefferson's personal library, said library spokesman Matt Raymond.

'This is really a quantum leap for the library,' he said, emphasizing the technical capabilities of the new initiative.

Raymond said that the library and Microsoft had signed the cooperative agreement a few days ago after the two parties had been in discussions about the project for several months. The overall cooperative project is likely to be worth about $22 million dollars when completed. Library officials say that they may work with other companies as well, as the project continues to progress.

Keith Hurwitz, Microsoft's public sector platform strategy advisor, said that the project presents a unique opportunity for Microsoft to help the library improve accessibility while also showcasing the company's technology.

About the Authors

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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