Gateway to Knowledge Guest Post #23

This is the 23rd in a series of guest posts by Abigail Van Gelder, who with her husband, Josh, is journeying across the country on the Library’s “Gateway to Knowledge” traveling exhibition:

Now that we are back to our normal schedule of visiting two communities a week, I think it’s time to talk about the amazing mid-summer run we had.  I say midsummer because the temps have been above 70 for us since March, and for someone from the upper Midwest, that’s summer.  Working with the wonderful team at MRA and the Library, we were able to take part in two conventions: one for the American Association of Museums and the other for the American Library Association.

Houston, Texas, May 21-25, 2011

The first found us in the heart of Houston, Texas, surrounded by all sorts of wonderful exhibits, including a T-Rex model.  Taking the Gateway to Knowledge exhibit to the American Association of Museums annual meeting was an indescribable experience, but of course I’m going to try.  This was the first time that Josh and I have been able to accompany MRA to the convention and also the first time that we have put a truck on the exhibit before.  In past years, our participation has varied from exhibits at the opening party to hosting a booth but never a full, double-expandable in the middle of the action.

For those of you who have been to see the truck, you know we are pretty darn big – well so big this time that we didn’t fit under the loading dock door.  The wonderful folks coordinating the convention’s set-up had to open another exhibit hall and move us in from the other side of the convention center.  Nothing like taking a wall down to announce your arrival.

We are always excited when one of the members of the Library of Congress Interpretive Programs Office comes by to see how we are doing.  William “Jake” Jacobs joined us for the first few days of the show and lent a hand welcoming visitors.  He commented about how shiny the trailer looked. (I didn’t want to tell him that it was because I had spent most of the day before with a bottle of detailer and a rag up on a ladder.)  Oh thanks, it always looks like this. Right.

In the four days we were open on the exhibit floor, guests from all over the world came by to see what we were up too.  While talking with attendees, we really got a feel for how global the Library of Congress is, hearing stories of how the resources are used by professionals and museums of all subjects.  Next time you are visiting a local museum, take a peek at the credits under images. I bet you’ll be surprised at how many are provided by your nation’s library.

New Orleans, La., June 23-27, 2011

A month later we were pulling into New Orleans, La., for the American Library Association’s annual convention, joining more than 20,000 attendees.  I can assure you we were on our toes for this one. Hundreds of staff members from the Library of Congress were also attending and going to be stopping by for visits.  I had the chance to meet a few curators who worked on the text for a display inside the exhibit.  It’s very inspirational to see the passion for their work.  However the biggest highlight was once again having Associate Librarian for Library Services Deanna Marcum come by the exhibit.  She was able to join us for a ribbon cutting to open the exhibit.  We were grateful that she had some time to spend with us, this being a very busy week for her.

The question we answered most often was “how can I get this to my library?”  I hated to be the bearer of bad news, but our schedule is already set until the National Book Festival.  We are actually finalizing the last few stops now and will be posting them onto soon.

I want to personally thank everyone who stopped by to see us at these conventions and have been overwhelmed by the support we have out here on the road.  A special thanks goes out to the Library of Congress staff that had time to talk with us.