These past ten months at the Library of Congress have been a whirlwind—it’s amazing to me how quickly the time has flown by.
I’ve learned so much and had so many unforgettable experiences during my time at the Library. You may have noticed that I became a regular contributor to Now See Hear—the blog has been a wonderful way to continue to explore the Library’s moving image and recorded sound materials, and to share them with others. I’ve been able to research interesting figures, topics, programs, and materials from the world of radio, film, television, and more. Some of my favorites have been this post on the “First Lady of Food,” this post on press kits, this post on the newsreel All-American News, and this post on an old-time radio program called Adventures in Research. There are so many fascinating items in the collections of this division, and I barely scratched the surface. But I hope these posts have given you a taste of the wonders of radio, recorded sound, television, and film, as well as their potential for research projects on a wide range of topics. This variety of topics has been one of the best things about doing reference work in this division—every question presents an opportunity to learn about a new bit of history, or a new film, or television series, or piece of music, or radio program. There is such a range within the materials of this division, and so much potential for researchers.
I have also been working hard on a number of Research Guides for various collections and materials within MBRS. A few have been published so far: Television Commercials in the Moving Image Collections, Major Bowes and the Original Amateur Hour, and Women’s Suffrage in the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Collections. These guides describe collection materials, search strategies, using the collections and how to get in touch, as well as additional resources that researchers have access to at the Library. Several more will be published in the coming months: guides on the Bob Hope Collection, on news, politics, and public affairs research using moving image and recorded sound materials, on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Collection, and on researching women in radio, television, spoken word, music, and film. As with writing blogs, compiling these Research Guides has allowed me to learn so much about the moving image and recorded sound materials at the Library, and also to understand research guides, and archival research, in a new way. What is the best way to share background information, collection items, and other resources in an online platform? How can the guides be informative, but also visually engaging and accessible? How do we choose what resources to include in a research guide? What has to be left out, and why? These aren’t the kinds of questions that have single, solid answers. But these are the questions that I have particularly enjoyed pondering as I have created new Research Guides and adapted older guides to a newer format.
Web archiving has been another exciting initiative in which I have been able to participate. The Recorded Sound Section has been working on building up two web archives over the past year: “American Music Creators,” that archives the websites of music creators of all genres, and “American Music Industry,” that collects the websites of different areas of the music industry. Each archive strives to cover a range of genres, creators, and industry stakeholders. We try to get as wide a range of websites as possible. “Music Creators” includes classical musicians and groups, rock bands, hip hop artists, country, jazz, indie, folk, and more. “Music Industry” includes record labels, magazines, professional organizations, and festivals. Look out for public access to our first archived sites soon, and learn more about the program on the web archiving site.
One of my absolute favorite experiences occurred in the last month of my residency. In March, I was able to be a part of the Gershwin Prize, a major annual award and event hosted by the Library of Congress each year. Held at the DAR’s Constitution Hall, the Gershwin Prize is an awards ceremony and concert as well as a television event. Gloria and Emilio Estefan were the awardees this year, and the concert was a studded with stars: Jose Feliciano, Patti LaBelle, Cyndi Lauper, Rita Moreno, Andy Garcia, and Quincy Jones all appeared on stage, and members of Congress and the Supreme Court were in the audience. Being able to be volunteer back stage with other Library of Congress employees and to help make the show happen was unforgettable. As audience members, it’s easy to miss all of the work that goes on behind the scenes. After this experience, I will never look at concerts and other productions the same way! This year’s concert will be aired in early May on PBS, so be sure to check your local stations for the broadcast schedule.
There is always something bittersweet about accepting residency or internship positions, knowing that there is a finite amount of time in which to learn and explore and grow within a particular institution. So often, it’s just when you feel like you’re really getting into the swing of things that your time is up. That’s exactly how I feel in the last few days of my residency. I have gained an appreciation, and a small understanding, of a side of librarianship and archival work that I was largely unfamiliar with before last June. I have learned so much about audiovisual research, and have become aware of its great potential for researchers in many disciplines. I have made professional connections and friendships that I know I will draw on throughout my career. It’s a wonderful thing to have some familiar faces at the Library of Congress, and to be able to encourage others to explore what the Library—and especially the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division—has to offer.
Thank you for following my time here at the Library, and please—come visit the Moving Image and Recorded Sound Research Centers! I can guarantee that you’ll meet some exceptional librarians who are always ready and willing to help your research.