(This post is by Suzanne Schadl, Chief of the Hispanic Division at the Library of Congress.)
It is International Workers’ Day, sometimes called May Day. On this first day of May 2020, staff of the international collections divisions at the Library of Congress want to celebrate workers everywhere by sharing a tribute to workers who have engineered and implemented innovations like paper, movable print, video, internet, and crowd sourcing to make information sharing possible!
Paper makers have been essential in capturing and sharing information. As the “The Story of Papermaking; an Account of Papermaking from Its Earliest Known Record Down to the Present Time” notes, this important skill originated in China, traveled to the Middle East, and spread eventually into Spain. The Spanish encountered deerskin and amate (wood bark) paper among the indigenous peoples in the Americas and often destroyed it because of its association with indigenous spirituality.
This 18th century Japanese woodblock print features a worker making paper by dipping a frame into a vat of water and pulp. The piece, preserved in the Prints & Photographs Division, reminds us that paper is also an easily accessible platform for visual communication. Historically, printers engineered an additional tool for sharing information. As noted in this earlier 4 Corners blogpost, Johann Gutenberg’s introduction of movable metal type, “turned out to be a revolutionary advancement in the dissemination of information.”
Audio-visual workers secured the marriage of moving images and human voices to engage sound and movement in sharing information. This Library of Congress webcast, “Mission to Baghdad: Toward Rebuilding a National Library,” helps illustrate cross-cultural efforts to share best practices for preserving precious library collections in the wake of crisis.
Just as movable type revolutionized the dissemination of print information, internet accessibility opened new pathways for communications. Many of us are fortunate to have such technologies today, as we connect through broadband access and home computers. One electronic Russian reference resource, Rambler, provides a conduit to Russian news stories and enables researchers to target Cyrillic texts circulated in Russia.
Different languages, type settings, and organizational structures challenge information sharing across cultures. Projects like this By the People Campaign described in a Custodia Legis blogpost, help the Library of Congress layer participants’ word for word transcriptions into the online catalog. This cooperative work is one way to ensure Spanish-speaking researchers find familiar references as noted in this 4 Corners blogpost.
Have you made paper, created a block print, written a blogpost, filmed an interview, created an internet search interface, translated and/or transcribed a text? If so, you too are a celebrated worker, helping to transfer information across boundaries. Please share your examples of this work in the comments below.