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December 3, 2007

Images of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building Added to the Carol M. Highsmith Archive

Distinguished architectural photographer Carol M. Highsmith, who began donating her work to the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress in 1992, has turned her lens on the Library itself.

In more than 400 color digital images, Highsmith has captured both the artistry and symbolism of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, from the floor of the Great Hall to the dome of the Main Reading Room. These images and others can be found online at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pp/highsmhtml/highsmabt.html.

"Looking at Highsmith’s sharply detailed photographs is an amazing experience," said C. Ford Peatross, director of the Library’s Center for Architecture, Design and Engineering. "She is able to reveal new information about a building that I’ve studied for years."

Her recent donation of these photographs will help visitors better understand the Library’s mission to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations. The images also will highlight the features of the ornate Jefferson Building, which opened in 1897. Highsmith worked at all hours, day and night, during 2006 and 2007 to obtain the best lighting possible, often perched on a tall lift to reach the many mosaics and murals in order to "do justice to the building and the institution that I love."

In addition to the Jefferson Building, Highsmith photographed the Library’s James Madison Building and the John Adams Building. These 75 images will be placed online at a later date.

Highsmith, who has documented American life and architecture for more than 30 years, began donating her archive to the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress in 1992. The collection is expected to grow to more than 100,000 photographs covering all of the United States. Highsmith has generously dedicated the rights for these photographs to the American people, thereby providing copyright-free access to her images and making her archive an even more special visual resource. Also, she employs the latest technology to scan, store and print her images, and uses the finest professional digital camera equipment.

In her next project for the Library of Congress, in what she calls her "career capstone," Highsmith is creating a multiyear visual record of the early part of this century, a portrait of the United States as a dynamic and ever-changing nation. Funding is being sought for this project, titled "21st Century America."

The project will include an oral history component, and will be the first truly comprehensive photographic study of the entire nation since the historic Farm Security Administration work of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and other photographers during the Depression and Dust Bowl era of the early 20th century.

"America’s my palette, and in my opinion we’re not showcasing America enough right now throughout the world," said Highsmith. "There’s no better way to show off America than to take these images and donate them to the Library of Congress."

For additional information on the "21st Century America" project, contact Ford Peatross at cpea@loc.gov .

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PR 07-243
12/03/07
ISSN 0731-3527

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