The following is a guest post by frequent blogger Denise Gallo, Head of Acquisitions and Processing.
When I joined the Music Division staff in June of 2002, my supervisor took me to see the Treasures Vault. There I was, surrounded by the manuscripts of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Copland, Britten, and Gershwin – just a few of the items I saw on the shelves. When I became head of the archival processing section five years later, I was given vault access myself. My plan was to visit this musical temple whenever I could, but, as is usually the way, I only went when I needed to. On Friday, April 6, at 1 p.m., I will officially separate from federal service to become lead archivist at a private repository. Before I go, though (and while my vault access still works!), I plan to go downstairs to say goodbye to all of the treasures I never had enough time for over the past ten years.
I have been fortunate in my work here to oversee almost 600 archival collections of music manuscripts and papers that document music history, all property of the American people. And I was lucky enough to represent the Library on some fascinating assignments. My first was to St. Petersburg, Russia, where I represented the Librarian of Congress on a joint project with the Mariinsky Theatre. Over the next few years, I was selected for acquisitions trips; my last was to Nashville, where I represented the Music Division in talks with the Country Music Association and the Grand Ol’ Opry. I’ve curated exhibits featuring items from our collections, even one of campaign songs that was displayed outside the first 2008 presidential debate at the UMiss. And then there were the celebrities I got to meet at Library of Congress events: Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Allen Toussaint, Elvis Costello, Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Lyle Lovett, and Paul Williams, to name a very few.
I’ve done reference work for Supreme Court Justices and members of Congress; once I explained to a member of former Sen. Tom Daschle’s staff how sonata allegro form (a compositional technique) was a great speech writing tool. Equally memorable were the patrons I was able to serve, like the woman whose father’s copyrighted song I found just in time for her mother’s 80th birthday and the middle-aged piano student who wept when I showed her a facsimile of a Beethoven manuscript. It seems that everything we do here – small or large – leaves its own distinctive mark on us and those we help. As I turn in the ID that has for nearly a decade identified me as a staff member of the Nation’s most respected cultural institution, I can say that to be even a small part of its work has been an honor. Even more than the myriad memories, that’s what I’ll never forget.