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New Exhibit! Chamber Music: The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge

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The Library of Congress Concert Series (whose 90th season was announced earlier this month) offers world-class chamber music performances in the Jefferson Building’s Coolidge Auditorium. Most Library visitors might assume that the space is named for President Calvin Coolidge; however, it was a different Coolidge who is responsible for its construction. In 1925 Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge (1864-1953) established the Coolidge Foundation at the Library of Congress through a generous gift that would ensure her support of contemporary music for generations to come. An accomplished pianist and avid composer, Coolidge’s passion was chamber music. In pursuit of her vision to make chamber music available to all, she built at the Library an intimate, finely-tuned auditorium that bears her name. For the last ninety years, world-class artists have appeared on its stage in free public concerts, many of which are broadcast on radio and, today, online (see a selection of Library concerts available on the Library’s YouTube channel).

Autographed portrait of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Coolidge Foundation Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
Autographed portrait of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Coolidge Foundation Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

In honor of Mrs. Coolidge and her gifts to the Library as well as to music, the Performing Arts Reading Room is proud to host a new exhibit in its foyer — Chamber Music: The Life and Legacy of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. The exhibit draws upon our collections to explore Coolidge’s own musical background, trace her philanthropy from Chicago, to Massachusetts, to Washington, D.C., and highlight noteworthy commissions. The exhibit will be on display in the Performing Arts Reading Room until Saturday, January 23, 2016 and will then travel to Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The exhibit is also available online to the public so that no matter where you live, you may enjoy the exhibit.

Over the coming months, Robin Rausch and I (as co-curators of the exhibit) will publish blog posts that highlight specific aspects of the exhibit and bring to life some of the many stories that lie within the boxes of our Coolidge Foundation Collection. Stay tuned – and feel free to send questions about the exhibit via our Ask A Librarian form!

The Performing Arts Reading Room is open Monday-Saturday from 8:30am-5:00pm, except for federal holidays. See the Performing Arts Reading Room website for more information on location, hours, and holidays.

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