This is a guest post by Naomi Coquillon of the Interpretive Programs Office.
As spring slowly blossoms in Washington, we’re gearing up for our celebration of all things windy, flowery and new with our Spring Fling Pop-Up Exhibition. Open April 6, 7, 13 and 14, the pop-up invites visitors to experience the living history of the National Cherry Blossom Festival through rare drawings and photographs; learn about the weather, seasons, gardens and botany from books and maps; explore the imaginations of leading writers through literature and poetry; discover springtime cultural traditions from around the world; and feel the beat of the season with music and films that depict these spirited months.
For those who can’t join us in person, follow the hashtag #SpringFling to see updates from the exhibit and join the fun by:
- Practicing Hanami (blossom viewing). Widely celebrated in Japanese literature, poetry and art, “sakura” (cherry blossoms) carry layered meanings. For example, because they bloom briefly, the blossoms are often seen as a metaphor for the ephemeral beauty of living. At the same time, the joyful practice of “hanami” is an old and ongoing tradition. If there are no cherry blossoms where you are, explore our online exhibition Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship.
- Dancing to the Beat of the Season. “Appalachian Spring,” the Library’s Pulitzer Prize-winning music and ballet commission, will be on view in the pop-up exhibit, but you can see a 2016 performance of this classic work performed by the Martha Graham Dance Company in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium here as well.
- Setting the Haft Seen Table. Nowruz, an age-old tradition observed from western China to the Caucasus, Anatolia and beyond, is based on celebrating the rebirth of nature and honoring the arrival of spring as earth’s cycle of life begins anew. Starting in ancient Zoroastrian Persia, the tradition of celebrating Nowruz continues to this day to be the most important annual festival in many regions of Eurasia. Symbols of spring are decorated with rich color in the floral and animal motifs seen in the material culture of these regions. Today in Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Central Asia, symbolic foods such as Haft Maiwa (Seven Fruits) and display tables such as the Haft Seen table (seven symbolic items that begin with “S” in Persian) feature wheat sprouts, fragrant hyacinths or tulips, colored eggs and various other items that signify renewal, fertility, wealth and health for the year ahead. Staff from the Library’s Near East Section, part of the African and Middle Eastern Division, will curate a Haft Seen table at the exhibit with these symbolic items:
“Sabzeh” (سبزه): wheat, barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts growing in a dish, symbolizes rebirth.
“Samanu” (سمنو): sweet pudding made from wheat germ, symbolizes affluence
“Senjed” (سنجد): dried Persian olive, symbolizes love
“Seer” (سیر): garlic, symbolizes healing from diseases
“Seeb” (سیب): apple, symbolizes health and beauty
“Somāq” (سماق): sumac, symbolizes the color of sunrise
“Serkeh” (سرکه): vinegar, symbolizes age and patience
“Sekkeh” (سکه): coin, symbolizes wealth and prosperity
- Telling a Springtime Story. We’ll invite visitors to the pop-up exhibit to take a close look at an item in our collections—including this work from Japanese woodblock artist Hokusai—and then to imagine, What happens next? Tell us what you think might be the next scene in the story by tweeting @librarycongress or using the #SpringFling hashtag.