April seemed to be a picture-perfect month for the Library of Congress in the headlines. Its release of a rare collection of images by Frances Benjamin Johnston, one of the first female professional photographers, made it into several high-profile media outlets, including The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Associated Press.
“On one level, the collection is a valuable inventory of gardens at a time when landscape design rose with the nation’s wealth and cultural aspirations but then disappeared during the Great Depression,” wrote Post reporter Adrian Higgins. “For Johnston admirers, the images represent a true artist at work, one who would manipulate her pictures at every stage in pursuit of the perfect evocation of a given garden.”
In addition, the Library has continued to make strides in identifying images of the Civil War soldiers in its Liljenquist collection. Ramona Martinez of National Public Radio did a little investigating of her own in trying to find out about a Union soldier. Her discoveries sounded pretty convincing, until she hit a snag …
While maybe not known for photographs, Lee Strasberg certainly helped put people in pictures. The renowned acting instructor – father of the Method style – helped kick-start the careers of James Dean, Al Pacino and Marilyn Monroe, among others. The Library recently acquired his personal papers thank to a generous donation from his widow, Anna, and son, Adam. Picking up the announcement was Variety, Associated Press, The Examiner, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.
Recently the Library marked Preservation Week with a series of events on how to care for and preserve precious mementos, including photographs and paper documents. In fact, the Library works hard to make sure its own collections are preserved and accessible for generations to come. Its Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation is a hub of such activity. The Washington Post ran an article on the work it’s doing to safeguard our “obsolete technology” and pop culture.
“Maybe preservation is overrated, really, if what we’re preserving is the rise and fall of Susan Lucci’s hair, the never-ending ‘American Pie’ franchise, the extemporaneous Twitter feed,” wrote reporter Monica Hesse. “But then, our recent past it not any trashier than the pop culture of more distant pasts; the difference is that much of that trash ended up in the garbage. There is meaning in the gleaming blond of Ricky Schroder’s hair; we’re just not far enough away to understand it yet, and by the time we are, the tape will have disintegrated.”