Library in the News: September 2014 Edition

On Sept. 10, the Library opened the exhibition “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom.” Covering the opening were outlets including the National Newspapers Publishing Association, the Examiner and regional outlets from New York to Alabama.

“A few things set this exhibition apart from the multitude of this year’s commemorations,” wrote Jazelle Hunt for NNPA. “The Library draws from its exclusive archives of the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, James Forman of SNCC, the recently borrowed Rosa Park’ papers, and more.

“But what truly distinguishes the Library of Congress’ exhibition is that it ventures well beyond stock narratives of sit-ins and Freedom Rides.”

“The Library of Congress‘ new exhibit, ‘The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom,’ is an absolute must-see for everyone, black or white, male or female, old or young — especially those too young to have lived through this era,” wrote Marsha Dubrow for the Examiner. “The exhibit vividly illuminates that long struggle, and inspires and lights the long struggle ahead.”

One of the civil rights leaders featured in the exhibition is Rosa Parks. In September, the Library announced that her papers would be housed in the institution for the next 10 years, thanks to a loan from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, with some of the items incorporated into the Library’s exhibition.

USA Today spoke with auctioneer Arlan Ettinger, who helped facilitate the purchase by Buffett of the collection. He said he was gratified that the Library of Congress would be the next stop for Parks’ papers.

“The Buffett Foundation wasn’t acquiring this to put into their vaults, this was an acquisition to do the right thing,” Ettinger said.

Also running stories were ABC, the Associated Press, the Detroit News, the New York Times arts blog and Politico.

Many of the items on display in “The Civil Rights Act of 1964” exhibition are photographs. They are only a small sampling of the Library’s photographic collections, which cover a wide variety of subjects. Last year, the Library published an e-book featuring some of these. VOA recently talked with the book’s photo editor, Aimee Hess.

“A lot of readers …  have said they had no idea that the Library of Congress had images like this. … We wanted people to realize that we have these in our collection, and that these images are for everybody, they’re for the public,” she said. “The bulk of the book are these unknown photographers, and their photographic contributions are just as important and just as interesting and compelling as these household names, so I think it’s really nice that we’re giving them their due.”

Mark Murrmann of Mother Jones also spent time perusing the Library’s photo collections to highlight several images of interest.

Speaking of taking creative license with the Library’s photo collections, artist Kevin Weir creates ghostly gifs using historical black-and-white photos he finds in the institution’s online archive. According to Colossal, a blog that explores art and visual culture, Weir is “deeply drawn to what he calls ‘unknowable places and persons,’ images with little connection to present day that he can use as blank canvas for his weird ideas.”

On Sept. 25, Poet Laureate Charles Wright kicked off the literary season at the Library by presenting his inaugural lecture. Susan Page of USA Today caught up with him to talk about his new job.

When asked, “Why does poetry matter?” he said, “I know why it matters to me. I can’t speak for anyone else. It changed my life. It gave me some valve for the emotional longings that I had as a young man and helped me bring together various independent thoughts that I had. It was very important to me, and I always had a love of language, which is the first thing you have to have if you want to write poems. You’ve got to love the language. And you’ve got to be good at finding new ways of using it.”

Wright also spoke with the Associated Press: “I’m at a stage in my life and career where I don’t need this, but I’m happy to have it if they want me.”

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