Reflecting on a new year

January 2021

A Monthly Roundup of News and Thoughts from the Library of Congress Labs Team

Reflecting on a new season

When people hear the word “innovation,” they may think of doing things in a way that is new and, for lack of a better word, “unprecedented.” In a time and world where so many circumstances appear unprecedented, we invite you to consider a slightly different framing–we believe that, sometimes, doing something innovative can mean stepping back, reflecting, and looking at things from a fresh perspective.

In next month’s newsletter, we will return to sharing updates about current projects and opportunities. But for now, we invite you to reflect on a selection of Library of Congress resources that help us both understand the past and explore the future.

Contemporary Conversations

The Digital Strategy, which guides our team’s work, prompts the Library to build lifelong relationships with every visit, bring the Library to our users, welcome other voices, and drive momentum in our communities.

These three leaders help us reflect on what that may look like. 

“Cultural institutions like libraries and museums are offering historical context but also reexamining [how] we present information and history to our publics and making sure that we are part of a solution…” 

“History has to be spoken about as a conversation because ultimately, that’s what it is.” 

“…how [can we] engage Americans all over the country in the question of how we tell our story[?] Can we be inventive and creative and find ways of being honest about our past without slipping into cynicism and find ways of being appreciative of our past without slipping into deification?” 

Cultural Materials Past and Present 

The Digital Strategy also directs us to “throw open the treasure chest.” A lot is happening at the Library of Congress to make historical documents available and bring new creative works into the collection. The treasure chest is opening— time to dig in!

Reference librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González discuss the newly renamed PALABRA Archive, containing recordings of over 800 poets and writers from Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula, the Caribbean, and other regions with Luso-Hispanic heritage populations, in these Online Office Hours.

The “Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words” Online Exhibit features never-before-seen historical documents sharing Rosa Park’s perspective on seminal moments in the Civil Right Movement.

The Boccaccio Project adapts a Renaissance classic for a modern audience in this series of musical responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recent digitization of the papers of 23 American presidents from George Washington (1732-1799) to Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), makes it possible for all Americans to explore these historical documents firsthand.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps offer a glimpse into the histories of local places in the United States. Have a look at how someplace important to you is represented in this collection.

As a new year dawns, we want to hear from you. 

What’s one way we can invite your community to participate in the Library’s digital transformation? What’s the most important thing you’d like to see from us in 2021?

We want to hear about it: [email protected].

Thank you and be well.


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Questions? Contact LC Labs at [email protected]

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