This is the 18th in a series of guest posts by Abigail Van Gelder, who with her husband, Josh, is journeying across the country on the Library’s “Gateway to Knowledge” traveling exhibition:
Each community we visit is unique and will have something special that stands out in our memories. San Angelo, Texas, may forever be known as the stop where 900 students came in one day – and that was the second day. On the first day, the high school’s ROTC color guard, the middle school choir, local officials and a very special surprise guest greeted us. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington’s daughter, Anne Fischer, and her husband joined us at the ribbon cutting! They are residents of San Angelo and have a deep connection to the Library.
Anne and her husband Duncan spent their time greeting guests and viewing the exhibit. It felt like we had an extra docent around! Just before leaving, Anne mentioned that she wanted to call her father to talk about her family’s experience with us. Over the two days we spent in San Angelo, more than 1,400 area students would join us and make their way through the exhibit. I hope that they all took something unique from their experience that day.
One school in particular traveled from more than an hour away. As the students came into the exhibit, we were surprised by how calm and quiet they were. After mentioning this to the organizing teacher, she laughed and informed me that they were playing “Red Rover” while they waited. Now that is innovative crowd management. I remembered that one, knowing that our next stop in Kerrville would be busy with school groups coming as well.
Being a part of this tour is being a part of history, but Kerrville, Texas, made sure that the Gateway to Knowledge Tour is part of their history too. During a ribbon cutting ceremony, the Butt-Holdsworth Library presented us with an engraved brick that will be placed into the renovated downtown sidewalks. This won’t be the only reason the local residents remember us – they came out in full force to see the exhibit. Some guests waited in an hour-long line, in the rain, to come inside. Just like in San Angelo, where we had to manage the crowds of students, in Kerrville we had to set up a line to move guests into and through the exhibit. At one point, it wrapped around the building. All day we chatted with guests excited to come in and see the displays. Those with fidgety kids were glad to see that our truck is hands-on. While we don’t travel with original documents under glass, the graphic panels allow for visitors to get up close to the “items,” and kids can touch everything.