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Alan Lomax Materials on Exhibit in the Library’s Great Hall

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Visitors to the Library (left) and AFC Folklife Specialist Jennifer Cutting (right) visiting the Lomax exhibit in the Library of Congress’s Great Hall on February 2, 2015. Photo by Stephen Winick.


Visitors to the Library of Congress looking at Alan Lomax’s sync block, a tool used for editing film. See the item they’re looking at below!

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, we are celebrating the Centenary of Alan Lomax’s birth with a series of events here at the library and out across the land.  As you’ve seen, we have been staging Lomax events for months in preparation for the birthday.  Since the actual birthday, January 31, fell on a Saturday, we held our latest event on Monday morning, February 2…Groundhog Day!  On that morning, we opened a modest exhibit on Alan Lomax in the Library’s not-very-modest Great Hall.

The exhibit occupies three glass cases located in the Great Hall’s South Gallery. It features artifacts from all stages of Lomax’s career, including photos, publications, and recordings, as well as one-of-a-kind manuscripts, and even some of the equipment Lomax used over the years.

Fascinating items in the exhibit include one of Lomax’s field notebooks from 1942; a hand-painted birth announcement for Arlo Guthrie, sent to Lomax by his friend Woody Guthrie; and the disc sleeve for a 1937 field recording of Georgia Turner. The Turner recording features “Rising Sun Blues,” often called “House of the Rising Sun,” and was the basis of later versions recorded by Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk, and the hit version for The Animals in 1964.

We hope you’ll get a chance to visit this exhibit and see some of Alan Lomax’s tools and documents for yourself.  It would also be an opportunity to visit the Great Hall itself, one of the most stunning interior spaces in the nation, decorated with breathtaking paintings, carvings, and mosaics. The exhibit is in the South Gallery of the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building, and is open whenever the Library is open, until February 28.  If you’d like to also stop by our reading room and listen to some field recordings or ask a research question, we’re just downstairs on the ground floor.  Reading Room hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Stop by and see us!

One of the more unusual items in the cases is this 4-gang Moviola sync block, a device used for hand-editing film. Lomax did a lot of film editing of dance-related films when studying “choreometrics,” the dance-related subfield of his research into performance style. Photo by Stephen Winick.


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