Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
December 21, 1999
Meeting of Frontiers Web Site Chronicles Parallel History of America's West and Russia's East
The parallel experiences of the United States and Russia in exploring, developing and settling their frontiers and the meeting of those frontiers in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest is the focus of a new Web site created by the Library of Congress under a special congressional appropriation. Beginning today, the site is available at frontiers.loc.gov.
"Meeting of Frontiers" includes more than 2,500 items, comprising some 70,000 images, from the Library's rare book, manuscript, map, film and sound recording collections that tell the stories of the explorers, fur traders, missionaries, exiles, gold miners and adventurers that peopled both frontiers and their interactions with the native peoples of Siberia and the American West.
The site is completely bilingual, in English and Russian, and is intended for use in U.S. and Russian schools and libraries and by the general public in both countries. Scholars, particularly those who do not have ready access to major research libraries, will benefit from the wealth of primary material included in "Meeting of Frontiers," much of which has never been published or is extremely rare. Intended to appeal to students and for use in schools, the site features such colorful characters as John Ledyard, an acquaintance of Thomas Jefferson who attempted to walk across Siberia, and Perry McDonough Collins, a lawyer and businessman who became the American Commercial Agent to the Amur River in 1856 and who developed a plan, partially carried out, to build a telegraph link from America to Europe via the Bering Straits and Siberia.
Collections available in "Meeting of Frontiers" include the Frank G. Carpenter Collection of photographs from Alaska in the 1910s; the John C. Grabill Collection of photographs of 1880s frontier life in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming; the Yudin Collection of papers from the Russian-American Company (1786-1830); and selections from the Alaska Russian Church Archives.
"Meeting of Frontiers" is a pilot project that was developed in 1999 at the Library of Congress by a team of Library staff and American and Russian consultants. The pilot will be expanded in the coming years through the addition of materials from the Library's own collections, from the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and from other U.S. institutions. It will also feature materials from partner institutions in Russia, including the Russian State Library in Moscow, the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg and the Institute of History of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Novosibirsk.
"Meeting of Frontiers" is funded by a special appropriation in the Library's FY 1999 budget, which is intended for the Library to obtain digital copies of unique and rare materials from Russia and to make those materials freely available through the Internet. Additional support for development of the project in Russia is being provided by the Open Society Institute of Russia.
"Meeting of Frontiers" is the Library's first major digital project involving international material and extensive cooperation with foreign institutions to obtain materials for the Library's collections in digital form. It is the first component of an international digital library that will build upon the Library's National Digital Library Program (www.loc.gov). The National Digital Library Program aims to bring more than 5 million items of American history to citizens everywhere as a Gift to the Nation for the Library's Bicentennial on April 24, 2000.
The Library of Congress, founded April 24, 1800, is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution. It preserves a collection of 115 million items -- more than two-thirds of which are in media other than books. These include the largest map and film and television collections in the world. In addition to its primary mission of serving the research needs of the U.S. Congress, the Library serves all Americans through its popular Web site (www.loc.gov) and its 22 reading rooms on Capitol Hill.
"We will celebrate with pride our first 200 years of Library history," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "During that time, the Library has grown into the world's largest repository of knowledge and creativity, which it has preserved for all generations of Americans. "We want to take advantage of this opportunity to energize national awareness of the critical role that all libraries play in keeping the spirit of creativity and free inquiry alive in our society."
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