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Floor-to-ceiling exhibit cases with blurred figures walking past
The new "Collecting Memories: Treasures from the Library of Congress" exhibit opens for a press preview, June 10, 2024. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress. Note: Privacy and publicity rights for individuals depicted may apply.

Gearing Up for a Mega Family Day on June 15th!

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If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may know that the Informal Learning Office (ILO) hosts monthly Family Days to provide families with engaging activities featuring Library collections. Our next program is the biggest yet; the June 15th Family Day will be (literally) an all-singing, all-dancing, all-star event!

The Library’s beautiful Jefferson Building will be the backdrop for a full day of family activities and performances celebrating the opening of the new David M. Rubenstein Treasures Gallery. The first exhibition in the space, Collecting Memories, opens on June 13th. It features a wide range of items from the Library’s collections that explore how we preserve memory, assemble knowledge, and recall events. These include Civil War portrait photographs, architecture student Maya Lin’s designs for the Vietnam War Memorial, and the original drawings for Spider-Man. There are many other fascinating treasures in the form of maps, moving images and sound recordings, personal narratives and much else besides. You can find out more in the May-June 2024 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, and in this description of the new gallery.

Families enjoying collections-based activities during Family Day on November 24, 2023. Photo by Angela Napili/Library of Congress. Note: Privacy and publicity rights for individuals depicted may apply.

From 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the ILO team is offering creative activities for families – although we welcome visitors of all ages who would like to participate! Taking inspiration from items in the Treasures Gallery, we’re highlighting maps and family history. You’ll be able to:

  • Talk to staff experts on Local History and Genealogy. Colleagues will be joining us to share their knowhow about exploring family history, offer resources, suggest how to conduct research, and highlight some alternative ways to uncover information.
  • Create a family tree, based on examples from the collections, or on your own design.
  • Explore a variety of maps, curated for us by the Geography and Map Division staff from their collections.
  • Make your own real or imaginary map, using ideas and styles from the ones on display.

After you’ve given full rein to your genealogical and geographical creativity, head to the Collecting Memories exhibition to see the impressive Blackwell’s kinfolk family tree, the result of 25 years of research by family member Thelma Short Doswell. Explore the Compendium of Knowledge section to see A Map of Lewis and Clark’s Track Across the Western Portion of North America, a 19th century Korean map, and a 1784 map of the newly independent United States. Pick up a family-friendly exhibition guide from ILO staff to help you navigate the impressive array of objects on display.

A map of Alexandria, Egypt, from a 17th century atlas exhibited in the Treasures Gallery.

Family Day also features a slate of exciting performances as outlined in this recent blog post. The program includes a folk song sing-along concert with musician Natalie Merchant, jump roping, hand clap games, body percussion and a community square dance. All events and activities are free of charge, but you do need to reserve building passes and separate concert tickets. Full details about the day’s programming and schedule are on the Library’s Events Page. We hope to see you on June 15th; please stop by the activities on the second floor and say hello to the ILO team!

Additional Resources:

If you can’t join us on the day, you can access a wealth of additional Treasures-related resources on the Library’s website.

The items in Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the night he was assassinated.

If you’d like to explore Collecting Memories virtually, here are some suggested highlights for each of the eight sections, outlined below. Once the Treasures Gallery opens on June 13th, there will be an online version available on the Library’s Exhibitions homepage.

  • Homeland: A print and a musical instrument document the firing of the White House by British troops on August 24, 1814. First Lady Dolley Madison directed the saving of treasures from the burned-out building, including President Madison’s own crystal flute (later brought to the attention of a 21st century audience by musician Lizzo).
  • Personal Narratives: In 1807, West African scholar Omar Ibn Said was captured and brought to South Carolina as a slave. He wrote his autobiography in Arabic while enslaved in North Carolina in 1831; it is the only memoir of its kind known to exist. There is a wealth of fascinating detail about this remarkable man’s story in the Library’s Omar Ibn Said collection.
  • Recording & Retelling: The “Sounds of Earth” disc, or “Golden Record”, is a 12-inch, gold-plated copper disc that holds sounds and images reflecting life on Earth, including music, animal noises and greetings in many languages. It was launched into space in the 1970s to teach any alien audience that might hear it about our planet. You can read about the Golden Record and how it came to the Library in this blog post.
  • Collected Stories, Collective Experience: The Passover Haggadah is read during the Passover meal to commemorate and retell the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. The beautiful example in the exhibition, The Washington Haggadah, was handwritten and illustrated in 15th century Europe by scribe and artist Joel Ben Simeon.
A page from The Washington Haggadah.
  • Compendium of Knowledge: The PALABRA Archive is a collection of nearly 800 original audio recordings from all over Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula, the Caribbean, and other areas with Hispanic and Portuguese heritage populations. Most content is in Spanish, English, and Portuguese, but you can also listen to works in Catalan, Basque, French, Dutch, Creole, and indigenous languages such as Náhuatl, Zapotec, Quechua, and Aymara.
  • Guiding Memory: Inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean Marshall Islands developed a type of map that used bamboo sticks and cowrie shells to represent ocean currents, wind patterns, and wave swells. These charts enabled Marshallese navigators to find their way safely between the many islands that make up their home. Find out more about these unique nautical maps from this blog post.
  A Marshall Islands stick chart, Majuro, Marshall Islands,1920. (Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress).

Have fun with your research – and if you’d like to share your findings or creations with the ILO team, email us at [email protected]. We can’t wait to see what you find and how you decide to use it!

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