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Join Us at the Treasures Family Festival on June 15, 2024!

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This post from Nicole Saylor, the Director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, initially appeared in the Minerva’s Kaleidoscope blog. Jennifer Ezell, a Program Specialist in the Informal Learning Office, provided the itinerary in this post

If you love to dance, jump, sing and clap, the June 15th Family Day at the Library of Congress is for you! The Treasures Family Festival “Treasures of American Communities” is a free, drop-in program that will run from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The event will showcase both the new David M. Rubenstein Treasures Gallery, highlighting gems from the Library’s vast collection, and the treasures of human creativity and cultural expression. The festival is included with the daily timed-entry tickets required to visit the building, but portions of the event require preregistration at this link.

The American Folklife Center (AFC) is thrilled to be a part of these festivities, which kick off with a sing-along lead by our wonderful Board of Trustees member, Natalie Merchant. Natalie is not only an amazing musician but also an evangelist for getting children to learn and love traditional songs and games. She has helped us launch a new research guide to children’s songs and games to help patrons find children’s voices throughout our collections in the form of playground ritual and games, lullabies, and songs, as well as through oral history and storytelling documentation. This event will bring those traditions to visitors, and marks the kick-off of a multi-year effort to connect young people with the traditional folk games and songs found in AFC’s archives. Natalie will start the day with a featured performance at 10:30 a.m., and then participate informally in activities throughout the day.

A woman smiles and holds her hands out toward the camera
Natalie Merchant. Photo by Shervin Lainez.

While at the Library, please be sure to check out gems of the AFC collection in the new David M. Rubenstein Treasures Gallery. See a sewing machine that was used to make some of the earliest panels in the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a memorial to lives lost during the AIDS pandemic and the largest folk art project in United States history. Read a beautiful letter about David Keisacker’s love for Christmas, family and friends, and view a picture of a massive display of the Quilt on the National Mall. Listen to several oral history interviews from Ruby Sales and Courtland Cox, among others, who are part of our Civil Rights History Project. You will also be able to view a hook rug made by Maryland resident Mary Sheppard Burton and POW letters from George Washington Pearcy written on can labels.

Family Day activities are designed for kids and families, but all ages are welcome to join. The following events will occur throughout the day:

  • The activities will kick off with Natalie’s sing-along in the Coolidge Auditorium from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Natalie will be accompanied by musicians Matthew Gordon (hambone/clogging/vocals), Jackson Fitzgerald (guitar), Alex Lacquement (bass), Richie Stearns (banjo), Kevin Wimmer (fiddle). As a reminder, this portion of the day requires a separate ticket, available at this link.
  • At 11:30 a.m the D.C. Retro Jumpers will present on the history of jump rope and invite visitors to hop into the community double dutch activity.
  • At 12:20 p.m. the Ken and Brad Kolodner Quartet and caller Janine Smith will lead visitors in a square dance. Smith will also offer seated dancing options as an accessibility option.
  • At 1:20 p.m., Black Girls Handgames Project will join the festivities, demonstrating hand clap games and songs such as “Miss Mary Mack” and their corresponding clapping games.
  • At 2:10 p.m., musician and performer Matthew Gordon will take the stage in the Great Hall to demonstrate body percussion and clogging.
  • At 3:00 p.m. the festivities will move outside to the Jefferson Building’s Neptune’s Plaza, just above the Neptune Fountain, where the Ken and Brad Kolodner Quartet and Janine Smith will host the day’s culminating square dance. If there is inclement weather, the festival will continue inside in the Great Hall instead of on the outdoor plaza.

As a reminder, building passes are required, and the Natalie Merchant 10:30 a.m. singalong is a separate ticket available at this link. ADA accommodations can be requested five business days in advance at 202-707-6363 or by emailing [email protected]. The Treasures Family Festival is generously supported by The Carnegie at Washingtonian Center and The Fizgerald of Palisades.

Children’s Rhymes and Games, Blue Ridge Elementary School, Ararat, Virginia. Photograph by Patrick Mullen, American Folklife Center, 1978, Library of Congress

In addition to the Treasures of American Communities performances, The Treasures Family Festival will also feature activities related to the Library collections on display in the David M. Rubenstein Treasures Gallery exhibit.

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