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Five Cool Finds From Google Arts & Culture’s Presidents’ Day Collection

The platform is sharing more than 2,000 items steeped in political history

The first-known photograph of the White House, by John Plumbe, Jr. (Library of Congress via The White House Historical Association)
smithsonian.com

It’s probably been years since you dusted off that 10th grade Civics book. But if your knowledge of the 44 presidents of the United States is a little rusty, never fear: For Presidents’ Day, Google Arts and Culture is sharing more than 2,000 items and 63 new exhibits exploring the leaders that have served as head of state since the office was first established in 1789. The collection is un, well, president-ed in size with five virtual tours, rare letters and little-known photographs. Here are five cool finds from the digital archive:

A Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams: This was the last letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams before both presidents died on July 4, 1826. In the letter, dated March 25, 1826, Jefferson asks Adams to meet with Jefferson’s grandson. He argues that the boy would benefit from meeting someone from “the Heroic age preceding his birth.” He also compares himself, Adams, and the rest of the Founding Fathers to the legendary Greek heroes Jason and the Argonauts.

President Kennedy Poses With Pope Paul VI: John F. Kennedy was America’s first (and, to date, only) Catholic president. That makes this 1963 color photograph of the president with the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Paul VI, pretty spectacular. Prejudice against Catholics remained entrenched in American society at the time of Kennedy’s run for office. In the last days of his presidential race against incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon, three bishops forbade Catholics from voting for anyone who disagreed with the Church’s birth control and abortion stances. The controversy did some real damage to Kennedy at a crucial time in the campaign and contributed to making the election one of the closest in American history, the John F. Kennedy Library notes.

Marvel at Mount Rushmore From Your Computer Screen: Haven’t had the chance to visit Mount Rushmore yet? Now you can check out the American wonder without ever leaving your desk. Google Earth has rigged up an eagle eye view of the visitors’ viewing platform for Mount Rushmore. From its Street View, you can see what people travel thousands of miles to marvel at—the giant stone heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, carved into the side of a mountain in Black Hills, South Dakota.

Watch the Obamas Dance at the Inaugural Ball: After Barack Obama’s second inauguration in 2013, he and the first lady danced to “Let’s Stay Together,” sung by Jennifer Hudson. This five-minute video documents the entire dance. Watch carefully and you’ll notice the Obamas sing the lyrics to one another as they dance.

The Origin of Operation Overlord: Operation Overlord was the codename the Allies used for the Battle of Normandy, the largest seaborne invasion in history that liberated Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. This document, drawn up during the 1943 Tehran Conference, captures a significant moment in history: President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill agreeing to inform Marshall Stalin of a date for Overlord. The red pencil on the document is Roosevelt’s handwriting.

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