Think of it as speed dating for the intelligentsia.

The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress celebrated its 15th anniversary Thursday with a series of “Lightning Conversations” that featured almost 70 scholars from more than 600 who have been associated with the global research center.

Dubbed ScholarFest, the event featured established academics and emerging professors and researchers who were paired in 10-minute sessions that tackled questions like “Does the Cold War matter anymore?” to “What is the primary role of the historian?”

The Library chose the format because so many former Kluge scholars said they would come to the anniversary celebration, said Kluge Center director Jane McAuliffe. “You can’t have 70 people give 45 minute lectures, and you can’t say we’re only going to select a few,” she said.

McAuliffe admitted being terrified about the format until about 15 minutes into the morning’s first session. “I’m on a high,” she said.

Some 100 people gathered in the stately meeting rooms of the Library’s Jefferson building to listen to former colleagues and new friends talk about their books, their research and their experiences at the Kluge Center. The center was founded with a $60 million gift; it hosts fellows and researchers and awards the Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the humanities.

The festivities began Wednesday with a gala dinner featuring a conversation between two Kluge Prize winners and Librarian of Congress James Billington, who unexpectedly announced his retirement Wednesday. The event concluded with a closing panel discussion on “Freedom of Thought and Why it Matters.”