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826DC at the Library of Congress

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The following post is by Sarah Richman, development and communications manager at 826DC. This post originally appeared on the 826DC blog following a collaborative collections-based research workshop in the Library of Congress’ new Programs Lab.

Seventh grade Brookland Middle School students pose in front of the Library of Congress Jefferson Building. Photo credit: Sarah Richman

Two weeks ago, we brought seventh grade Brookland Middle School scholars from our Young Authors’ Book Project to the Library of Congress for a field trip they’ll never forget!

Touring a Treasure

We began the morning with a special walk-through of the space.

Brookland Middle School scholars take in the Great Hall.
Brookland Middle School scholars take in the Great Hall. Photo credit: Sarah Richman

The wonderful Library of Congress staff led us through the Great Hall, the Main Reading Room, and the Young Readers Center before taking us into the brand-new Programs Lab.

All about Research

After we went around the room and introduced ourselves, we started in on an exciting research workshop.

Several 826DC volunteers were on-hand to offer support throughout the morning.
Several 826DC volunteers were on-hand to offer support throughout the morning. Photo credit: Sarah Richman

Two groups of scholars looked at materials from the Library of Congress digital photo collections. One looked at photos from the Gordon Parks Anacostia Housing Project. The other looked at photos from the 1968 DC riots. Both groups then wrote about what they noticed, how they felt, and what questions they had.

This picture from the Gordon Parks collection is from 1942! Photo credit: Sarah Richman
The students discussed their reactions. Photo credit: Sarah Richman

The third group of scholars did a chronicling activity using scans of an archived newspaper article from 1949 (part of the Chronicling America digital collection). They cut out the information that seemed most important to them and pasted it together in new ways.

The fourth group of scholars looked at historical maps of DC. After considering Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s original vision, they went on to create and explain their own ideal Districts.

They had tons of ideas and questions. Photo credit: Sarah Richman
826DC volunteers were ready to help. Photo credit: Sarah Richman

By the time we left the Library of Congress, the scholars had all learned more about working with primary sources and about researching in libraries.

That knowledge and practice will come in handy as they work on this year’s Young Authors’ Book Project: a collection of narrative journalism all about the District.

A Meaningful Morning

Bringing these scholars into storied local institutions like the Library of Congress sends a powerful message: you belong here, and this belongs to you.

We’re working to show local young people that they and their stories really matter—that their words have a place in our hallowed halls, on our bookshelves, and in the new American canon.

Pretty magical, right?