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House of Representatives Historian Launches Website

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Imagine it is Dec. 8, 1941.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt has just addressed Congress in order to request declaration of war after Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Which congressman fought in favor of war and who was vehemently against it?

You don't need to head to a museum to find out.  A new website allows history buffs to hear the arguments and first-hand accounts of these events in the comfort of their own living rooms.

The Office of the House Historian and Clerk of the House's Office of Art and Archives together launched the website, which provides a roundup on the nearly 11,000 members who've served in the House, on Dec. 28.  The website contains nearly 1,000 items in its database that consists of everything House-related -- from wonky photos to vintage furniture to congressional baseball cards.

"We're hoping member offices can utilize [the website] and it's a resource for members, staff, and constituents," said Matt Wasniewski, House historian and one of the project's leaders.  "We started out wanting a site that could engage people on the Hill and the general public who wanted to learn more."

The aim of the offices is to "serve as the House's institutional memory, a resource for Members, staff, and the general public," according to the website.

The enormous amount of history previously existed on the House clerk's website, but needed to be transferred to a more easily navigable site, according to Wasniewski.  What ensued was an entire year of work that ultimately led to the creation of the website.

"We get quite a few reference questions," Wasniewski said.  "This is just an intimidatingly sized institution to understand."

Current features of the website include the ability to search collections and oral history, find record of past House leaders, and get obscure fast facts about how the oath of office has evolved over time.

Soon, Wasniewski said, the site will have weekly highlights and statistical tables along with a YouTube page, RSS feed and Twitter account.

The only type of physical House exhibit that currently exists is the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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