I have been reading with enthusiasm recent interviews with the screenwriter/director Wes Anderson about his forthcoming film “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” not only because I am a fan of Mr. Anderson’s work, but because he has been talking about the Library of Congress. Specifically, he’s been talking about how he has recently used the Library.
Anderson and his production designer, Adam Stockhausen, reportedly (The New York Times, Dazed) studied the Library’s online photochrom prints collection, which includes almost 6,000 images from the 1890s and 1910s created by photo companies in Zurich and Detroit.
The collection includes stunning landscapes and images of both interiors and exteriors of cathedrals, theaters and, of course, hotels. Anderson recently explained to the New York Times that after searching through the photos, they traveled around Eastern Europe looking at some of the locations – some of which look “very close to the old pictures” – and used the images to assist in recreating the look and feel of a hotel of that time and place.
In addition to making me want to immediately become a production designer (traveling the world – who knew?), the articles also reminded me of what I have come to regard as the “cycle of creativity” that the Library of Congress supports and safeguards through its work.
The Library adds about 12,000 items to its collections on average every business day. Those items are acquired through several means but most predominantly from copyright deposits.
Authors register their works and deposit original copies with the U.S. Copyright Office to support enforcement of their intellectual property rights – an important piece of our nation’s legal framework to encourage authorship.
These new works join centuries old manuscripts, photographs, wax cylinders, books and other items in the Library’s 158 million-plus collection and are cared for and preserved using a range of specialized methods developed by the Library’s preservation and conservation teams. (You can read stories about just a few recent examples here.)
And finally, those collections are made available to the public, either on site at the Library’s research facilities or, in the case of the photochrom print collection, online. Practicing creators and scholars can look, study, read, touch, learn, be inspired and create new works that will themselves be registered for copyright and potentially not only entertain and inform audiences today but inspire and inform future generations of researchers and authors.
I wonder if the photographers based in Zurich and Detroit at the turn of the century imagined their images would one day more than 100 years later inspire a filmmaker’s efforts to remake a grand hotel? I wonder whom Anderson’s new film will, in turn, inspire 100 years from now (his screenplay has already been registered with the Copyright Office, natch). We cannot know for sure. But someone a century from now at the Library of Congress will.