New Exhibit: Library of Congress - "Exploring the Early Americas"

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Opening Thursday, December 13, this free exhibition marks the first of the Library’s new interactive gallery experiences which invite the public to experience the institution’s vast collections like never before (Fully opened in April 2008, the new Library of Congress Experience will offer virtual hands-on interaction with rare and unique items, such as the rough draft of The Declaration of Independence, the Gutenberg Bible and original volumes from Thomas Jefferson's Library).

A significant collection gathered over a half-century by Florida collector Jay I. Kislak, “Exploring the Early Americas” provides a glimpse of life in the Americas before Christopher Columbus set sail. Interactive stations offer visitors virtual, hands-on journeys into the history of the Americas. Divided by time period, the exhibition covers Pre-contact America, European Explorations and Encounters, and Aftermath of the Encounters.

Artifacts dating from 1500 B.C. tell the history of the indigenous people of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean through the period of European contact, exploration and settlement including:

1507 Waldseemüller Map and Carta Marina, the first to contain the name “America,” and earliest known published sea chart of the world;

“Buccaneers of America,” a 17th century account of ship-raiding pirates;

The Tortuguero Box, an intricately carved 7th century Mayan offering container;

George Washington’s 1762 diary, one of only five such diaries that is not already in the Library’s collections; and

Two printings of the Columbus letter reporting on his discoveries: the 1493 Latin and the 1494 Basel edition, the latter of which has the first purported illustrations of the New World.

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