By ERIN ALLEN
From major donations to celebrity appearances to its digital preservation efforts, the Library of Congress has been featured regularly in the news.
On May 6, philanthropist and financier David Rubenstein announced his gift to the Library of $5 million to ensure that National Book Festival—celebrating its 10th anniversary this year—remains an annual event for years to come.
“The gift was generated, in part, by conversations Rubenstein and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington had about their childhoods,” said The Washington Post reporter Jacqueline Trescott. She quotes the Librarian, who said, “We were discussing the parallels in our own lives with parents who didn’t have higher education but were tremendously devoted to books.”
Roll Call noted in its “Around the Hill” column that Rubenstein was a former Hill staffer. Other outlets running the story included Associated Press, Washington City Paper, Waterloo Chronicle, altassets.com and blog The Daily Tell.
The Library rolled out the red carpet on the evening of April 29 for members of the Creative Coalition during “Art and Soul: Celebration of the American Spirit.” (See story on page 124.) In attendance were actors Wendie Malick, Adrian Grenier, Marlon Wayans, Cheryl Hines, Dana Delaney, Tim Daly and Spike Lee. During the event, coalition members took to the Coolidge stage to pay homage to the Library of Congress for its preservation of American creativity, in particular work being done at the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va.
The Epoch Times noted that “Featured performers were scheduled to join the Creative Coalition’s annual Arts Day on the Hill on April 30, where performers meet with members of Congress and the Obama administration to discuss the future of federal funding for the arts and arts education.”
The Hill noted that several lawmakers were in attendance, including Rep Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), member of the Joint Committee on the Library, and Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), whose goal was to meet actress Dana Delany. The Hill’s “Washington Scene” columnist observed, “The most surprising moment of the evening for Snyder was when he spied fellow lawmaker, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), sitting on a couch and reading a book. Synder marveled, ‘Dana Delaney walked by and he didn’t even notice.’”
Also running articles about the star-studded event were Politico, The Washington Post and The Wrap.
Speaking of work being done at the Packard Campus, the Library and the Chicago History Museum are collaborating to digitally preserve and catalog thousands of sound recordings in the Museum’s Studs Terkel Collection of book interviews and WFMT radio programs. (See story on page 123.)
“If someone was an important figure in American culture in the 20th century, chances are he or she was interviewed by Studs Terkel,” said The New York Times reporter Lori Rotenberk, noting that some 5,500 interviews will be “given new life online” thanks to the Library.
Also running the announcement were the Associated Press, Chicago Sun-Times and Chicagoist.
To highlight the Library’s film preservation efforts, Ken Weissman of the Library’s Film Preservation Laboratory wrote an article for Creative COW Magazine on the institution’s efforts to create the ultimate archive system, starting with the restoration of films originally printed on paper.
“We have had a very robust preservation program over the years, and we still have a long way to go,” he wrote. “We have only been able to restore a small percentage of the films that we are preserving, and we’re collecting new films all the time. In the meantime, we have our prototype project for digital archiving in place, and we are looking to build on that in the future.”
The Library’s digital preservation efforts were the subject of a robust web feature on Boing Boing. Reporter Rob Beschizza took a tour of the Preservation Research and Testing Division and the Packard Campus.
“The Library’s preservation specialists use the latest technology to study and scan ancient books, maps and other historical artifacts,” he said. “It’s not all about moldy maps and tomes, either: thanks to the poor quality of consumer media, techniques are already being developed to recover information from damaged examples. So when the works of today’s unheralded geniuses end up as priceless, rotting museum pieces, the preservers will be ready.”
The Library not only preserves but makes available online segments of its vast resources. Case in point is the Library’s Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, chosen Website of the Week by Voice of America.
“This time, we crack open the vaults at the Library of Congress to unearth a treasure trove of photographs and other images, from Japanese woodblock prints to century-old color photographs of the Russian Empire to pictures documenting 20th-century America,” said VOA News correspondent Rosanne Skirble.
With more than 1 million images from the Library’s collections, “The Prints and Photographs Online Catalog is the primary access tool to learn about and explore the picture collections at the Library of Congress,” added Helena Zinkham, acting head of the Prints and Photographs Division.
Erin Allen is acting editor of The Gazette, the Library’s staff newsletter.