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Gateway to Knowledge Guest Post #21

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This is the 21st 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:

We just finished up our visit to the wonderful state of North Carolina. I am not shy about admitting that I truly do love it there. The landscape alone would make one want to pack up and head for the “hills,” but the people are just plain nice. I’m sure it helps that both Josh and I have close childhood friends that call North Carolina home. As expected, our stops in Chapel Hill, Asheboro, Lexington and Asheville were full of friendly faces – both old and some new.

While in Chapel Hill, we almost blew away. Well, the poor volunteers from the Chapel Hill Public Library did. Like most of the southeastern United States, we got into those nasty storms. We were so fortunate to have been missed by the tornadoes. During one show day, the rain started coming and the winds picked up, sending weighted tents tumbling across the parking lot. No one was hurt, but one migrating goose was a little perturbed by all of the ruckus we made. I do want to thank the friends of the library for braving the weather to be there.

Rep. Howard Coble spoke at the opening of the exhibit in Asheboro, N.C.

Josh and I noticed a bit of an anomaly in Chapel Hill. There seemed to be very large population of British ex-pats living in the area. At times it seemed like every other person I talked to had the tell- tale accent. Once we explored the town though, it wasn’t surprising. The city is very reminiscent of an old English countryside. Much of it seemed to be a den of winding roads through rolling forested hills and dales, stone walls and quaint houses and gardens. Chapel Hill is also home to the University of North Carolina and its beautiful campus.

Occasionally we get to do some really different things out on this tour. When we were in Lexington, we stopped in a place to eat that turned out to be a beer club and outdoor store. We stayed and had a beer and ended up chatting with the bartender. When we mentioned we were on our way to Asheville, we found out that she and her husband were also going there to pick up some inventory (Asheville is a bit of a microbrew mecca) and see a live music show. When we heard who was playing, we quickly decided we were going too. Abigail Washburn was opening for the Woods Brothers. We had heard of both groups and have a coworker/friend who is a huge fan of Bella Fleck, who is married to Abigail Washburn. It was a great show full of high drama. During Abigail Washburn’s set, the neck broke off of the upright bass during a solo. Fortunately, the Woods Brothers also play the upright bass, so a tragedy was averted. I suppose it’s probably good luck to tour with a band that plays some of the same instruments. Another great surprise was that Bella Fleck showed up and played with both bands. I have never seen nor heard someone pick a banjo like that guy. What can I say other than it was a great show. We were a part of musical history that night – great timing since the Library of Congress just made The National Jukebox live. This is just another way that the Library is helping to make so much of our country’s musical history available at your fingertips.

While in Asheville, we met a wonderful gentleman named Mike, a true inspiration to anyone interested in genealogy. He stopped by to get a little guidance on the Library’s website and stayed for almost an hour, sharing some stories about his ongoing research. We meet lots of folks interested in confirming their own family lineage, but Mike is dedicated to helping others along the way. Anytime he works with a record, he donates his time to translate the entire text. Instead of stopping after finding his family cemetery, he went ahead and surveyed all of the cemeteries for the county. He shared information about how he seeks resources and the path he takes to confirm details. Being a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, he often starts by looking at military pension applications to find family names and residences. While we are traveling with this exhibit to help educate others about the resources at the Library of Congress, we love picking up new information.

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