The Great Hall in the Library of Congress Jefferson Building echoes with the hubbub of enthusiastic visitors absorbing the ornate details of its salute to knowledge and creativity. Much as I relish those sights and sounds, on a recent afternoon, I enjoyed dipping into a room just off the Great Hall to contemplate a small, new exhibit that offers its own visual delights. In honor of the National Park Service’s centennial, its three exhibit cases contain historical and contemporary pictures from Prints & Photographs Division collections that celebrate the beauty and historic significance of the sites the National Park Service preserves and enables the public to enjoy.
This temporary exhibit went on view not long after the cherry blossoms burst into bloom all over the city, coinciding with the National Cherry Blossom Festival. One of the exhibit cases honors the 1912 gift of cherry trees to the nation’s capital and the National Park Service’s tireless efforts every spring to allow viewers to revel in the pink and white blossoms at the Tidal Basin and other locations.
The other two exhibit cases highlight the history of the National Park Service and the diverse sites it maintains, as well as the variety of pictures and other materials that document them.
In addition to maintaining the sites themselves, the National Park Service has worked since the New Deal era to preserve a record of the nation’s built heritage and landscapes. National Park Service’s Heritage Documentation Programs — the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), and the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) – have produced the nation’s largest archive of historic architectural, engineering, and landscape documentation. Through a long-standing collaboration, the Library of Congress makes the materials available. The HABS/HAER/HALS collection is one of our most popular online offerings. Among the historically significant sites that have been recorded are several that are part of the National Park Service system itself, including Yellowstone National Park roads and bridges in Wyoming, the Burnside Bridge American Sycamore in the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland, and the Frederick Douglass House in Washington, D.C.
The exhibit, which was put together by our curator of Architecture, Design & Engineering (and cherry blossom aficianado), Mari Nakahara, will be up through the end of June 2016, for those who can make an on-site visit. And for those who can’t see it in person, the HABS/HAER/HALS materials and images of National Park Service sites from many eras are always available online.
- Revel in sights from many national parks—worth an armchair tour any day!
- Read about the National Park Service Heritage Documentation Programs and explore the HABS/HAER/HALS collection. You can view photos, drawings, and written documentation for all manner of structures or focus on documentation for national parks and national historic sites.
- Just as the cherry blossoms are a seasonal treat, our appreciation for the HABS/HAER/HALS collection surfaces regularly. Have a look at previous blog posts relating to HABS, HAER, and HALS. And, while you’re at it, tour our multiple salutes to cherry blossom season!
- Explore more cherry blossom connections through the Library’s online exhibit “Sakura: Cherry Blossom as Living Symbols of Friendship.”
- Visit the National Park Service centennial site to learn about how it is celebrating its 100th birthday.