13 April 2017 | Pamela Linden

Located near the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.—where, on April 6, 1917, the United States Congress officially declared war on Germany—the Library of Congress this month began a many-faceted commemoration of United States participation in World War I.

A soldier pauses at the entrance to the Library of Congress exhibition ‘Echoes of the Great War’, March 28, 2017. Photo by Shawn Miller.

The centerpiece of this commemoration is a major on-site and online exhibition, “Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I” ( ), which covers debates over joining the war, war support on the home front, the experiences of American soldiers and volunteers overseas, and the war’s profound effects on those who served and on the subsequent trajectory of world history. Before “Echoes of the Great War” ends, in January 2019, more than 600 items from the Library’s rich multi-format collections will have been displayed, and placed in context, for visitors.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden speaks at an opening reception for the "Echoes of the Great War" exhibition, March 28, 2017. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden speaks at an opening reception for the “Echoes of the Great War” exhibition, March 28, 2017. Photo by Shawn Miller.

A separate and complementary exhibition, “World War I: American Artists View the Great War,”, will run through August 19, 2017, in the Library’s smaller Graphic Arts Gallery. The online versions of both exhibitions will be available permanently. In addition, the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, , which collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans from WWI to the present, has placed online a presentation on World War I at .

An online WWI Portal at  provides access to more of the Library’s vast store of material pertaining to the Great War, including posters, radio broadcasts, maps, and blogs—and it includes a listing of the many talks, films, and other events included in the Library’s WWI commemoration programming. On May 30, 2017, Bloomsbury Press will release America and the Great War: A Library of Congress Illustrated History, , which covers the American experience, both as a neutral nation, from August 1914 through April 5, 1917, and as a combatant. An appendix to the book provides information on WWI-era materials held in many of the Library’s 21 custodial divisions. The March-April edition of the Library of Congress Magazine ,, also commemorates the Great War.

The Library grounds themselves, reflect the WWI commemoration: in additional to a memorial tree, planted just after the Great War, the land surrounding the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building will feature three “Liberty Gardens,” similar to those planted by wartime Americans who were inspired by a similar program in Great Britain.

The three Library of Congress buildings on Capitol Hill

The three Library of Congress buildings on Capitol Hill. The John Adams Building is directly behind the domed Thomas Jefferson Building, and the James Madison Memorial Building is on the right. Photograph by Carol Highsmith.

The first federal cultural institution in the United States, the Library of Congress was established in 1800 with a modest collection of 740 books and three maps. It is now the largest library in the world. Its collections, numbering more than 165 million items in all formats and more than 400 languages, reflect the diversity of the American people and the nation’s membership in the community of nations. They also reflect the belief—expressed by the country’s fourth president, James Madison, and now etched in the façade of the Library’s James Madison Memorial Building—that “knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”