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Portrait photo of a smiling Carol Regan, posing in front an exhibition space, smiling, with her arms folded in front of her.
Cheryl Regan. Photo: Elaina Finkelstein.

My Job: Cheryl Regan

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Cheryl Regan is a veteran of the Library’s exhibits office, bringing the treasures of the world’s largest library to the public. Here, she answers a few questions about her work.

Describe your work at the Library.

I am a senior exhibition director in the Exhibits Office — the office charged with planning, developing and mounting Library of Congress exhibitions, both on-site and online. I began working at the Library in 1991, hired on as a picture researcher for the “City of Magnificent Distances: The Nation’s Capital” exhibition, and I never left.

I have directed exhibitions, both national and international in scope, and worked collaboratively with recognized scholars and in-house curators and staff, always with the institution’s mission in mind of providing access to the collections.

The audience for exhibitions at the Library is impressive. Over 30-plus years, I have seen attendance swell from the tens of thousands to well over a million for more recent offerings. But it is working with the amazing Library staff and the phenomenal collections that has made mine a truly great job.

How did you prepare for your job?

As I was preparing to start school as a fine arts major (painting) at Carnegie Mellon University, my father assured me of his whole-hearted support — but also asked that he not have to support me for the rest of his days.

So, as an undergraduate I began interning in museums. That led to my first job at the Carnegie Museum of Art, one of many museum jobs and subsequent internships I held in Pittsburgh; Rochester, New York; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Washington, D.C.

After three years of working as an assistant to the director of Carnegie Mellon Art Galleries, the director encouraged me to enter graduate school. I received a master’s in art history at the University of Virginia in 1991, then came to the Library.

What are some of your standout projects?

So many, really. We mounted an exhibition examining the life and work of Sigmund Freud that garnered worldwide attention and allowed me to work with renowned historians and thinkers. The Lewis and Clark and a century of Western exploration exhibition sparked what my love affair with maps. “Creating the United States” — with its message of creativity, conflict and compromise that went into crafting this nation’s founding documents — drew a broad audience, including members of Congress.

Working with colleagues on “The Civil War in America,” “Jacob Riis: Revealing ‘How the Other Half Lives,’ ” “Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of WWI” was particularly rewarding. I helped develop and curate the Library’s “American Treasures” exhibition during its 10-year-run, and now my career has come full circle: We currently are preparing “Collecting Memories: Treasures from the Library of Congress,” which promises to be a spectacular showcase for collections from all corners of the Library.

What are some of your favorite collection items?

I have direct contact with thousands of collection items, and I don’t think there is a custodial or collecting division that I haven’t worked with.

I remember giving tours of “With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition” and choking up reading the last lines of Lincoln’s first inaugural address. The collections are amazing for what they represent and the information that they contain, but the awe I feel in front of objects that were in the hands of Lincoln or Meriwether Lewis or some anonymous photographer doesn’t ever diminish. These objects bore witness to their time — that is so powerful, and it’s why I do the work that I do.

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Comments (4)

  1. Iā€™m enjoying your blog. My great great grandmother wrote a book that is in the Library of Congress and it makes me feel so good that someone who truly cares is involved! Thank you.

  2. Love this series. While the entire Q&A was fascinating, I especially liked hearing about Ms. Regan’s standout projects and favorite collection items. You really cannot have enough of these interesting behind-the-scenes profiles. Thanks!!

  3. God bless you āœ”ļøšŸ‘šŸ»šŸŒ¹

  4. I’m new here and exploring… but loved this one

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