Through an internal discussion list at the Library of Congress I learned that this year will mark the 20th Anniversary of American Memory. The exact date of the anniversary depends on how you want to mark it: either the beginning of FY90 on October 1st,
1999 1989 (thanks David) when work officially began, or earlier in the year when the President signed the bill that included the Legislative Branch appropriations for that year (exact date yet to be determined).
Via the discussion list I was able to learn that Shirley Liang (with the help of Nancy Eichacker) was able to locate a transcript of the hearings, which includes the details of Carl Fleischhauer’s demo of a Hypercard / Laser Video Disc based system before the House and later the Senate. Yes, HyperCard. LoC was making a pitch for American Memory before Congress just a few months after Tim Berners-Lee made his proposal to build a “web of notes with links” at CERN. Incidentally, I learned recently in Andrew Lih’s Wikipedia Revolution, that Ward Cunningham’s first implementation of Wiki was written using Hypercard.
I digress…and I want to digress more.
As a Library School student in the mid 90s I became a big fan of American Memory. It seemed like an audacious and exciting experiment right on the cutting edge of what the World Wide Web made (and continues to make) possible. The work that Caroline Arms and Carl Fleischhauer did to expose metadata about American Memory collections (with the technical expertise of Dave Woodward) deepened my interest in what LoC was doing. In hindsight, I think seeing this work from afar is what got me interested in trying to find a job at the Library of Congress.
Seeing that American Memory is turning 20 this year made me fess up to a crazy idea of writing a history of the project. In conversation with those much more knowledgeable than me I think I’ve convinced myself that a good place to start would be compiling a bibliography of things that have been written about the project. It seems a relatively simple and logical place to start.