The Library of Congress is an institution of enormous cultural and academic significance, but how are those who were overlooked in the metadata to find entry to the Library’s expansive collections? Of the People seeks to address this dilemma by connecting underrepresented communities to the Library’s digitized collections through the Digital Futures Program. Students, scholars, artists, and librarians across the country will discover and reimagine existing Library resources to engage their own communities in new ways across platforms that they design themselves.
Digital Futures participants will have guidance in discovering digitized collections whose titles don’t necessarily give clue to the diverse contents and stories of communities of color. Collections such as the Grabill Collection, a visual documentation of 1880s South Dakota and Wyoming’s emerging cities, and the Chinese immigrants and Lakota Sioux tribe members who lived on or near the Cheyenne River and the Pine Ridge reservations. The video presentation, “Charles Hamilton Houston & World War I” is 31 minutes of curator-led discussion about a Black man who served in World War I, the war time experience of African Americans and civil rights. Color photographs of mosaics and murals from the historic Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles Asistencia are found the Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, which might not be the first collection you search for items of Latinx culture. Participants researching Langston Hughes, the prolific writer and author, might not consider the New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection as a resource for images of Hughes, but images of him and other notables are found in this unrestricted collection. Digital projects from Of the People program participants will introduce new audiences to these and other collections and materials.
The Library’s digitized collections are ready for exploration. As part of the Library’s larger Of the People initiative, Digital Futures will support experimental and technological approaches to seeing content in new ways. For example, Digital Futures interns, scholars and artists in residence might produce collections that mix collections held in their local communities with items from across multiple Library of Congress digital collections to tell the stories that matter to them. We’re looking forward to finding out what other ideas applicants to the program have.