By JOHN Y. COLE
A trend is developing in the Library's exhibition-related publications. The printed catalogs, checklists and publications accompanying the four Bicentennial exhibitions, for example, are varied in size and nature but together reflect these patterns: less emphasis on large, scholarly and comprehensive volumes; partnerships with publishers outside the Library, both commercial and scholarly; and an emphasis on brief, colorful and well-illustrated "checklists" that are distributed without cost to the viewing public.
Attractive brochures were produced for each of the four Bicentennial exhibitions Reflecting the Bicentennial theme of "Libraries, Creativity, Liberty," these exhibitions are: "The Work of Charles and Ray Eames: A Legacy of Invention" (reflecting creativity; Library of Congress, May 20 -- Sept. 4, 1999, currently on tour); "John Bull and Uncle Sam: Four Centuries of British American Relations" (reflecting libraries; Library of Congress, Nov. 17, 1999 -- March 4, 2000); "The Wizard of Oz: An American Fairy Tale" (reflecting creativity; Library of Congress, April 21 -- Sept. 23, 2000) and "Thomas Jefferson" (reflecting liberty; April 24 -- Oct. 31, 2000).
Images from the Library's major exhibitions became available online from the Library's Web site in the early 1990s, and today that availability helps shape decisions about the nature of the printed exhibit catalogs and related publications. Other factors, all present since the Library's first exhibitions early in the 20th century, include the exhibition's overall purpose, the size of the expected viewing audience and the cost and funding source for the proposed catalog, checklist or related publication.
The Library's formal exhibitions program began, like so many other Library of Congress activities, with the opening of the Jefferson Building in November 1897. The following second story spaces were set aside "for exhibition purposes" by John Russell Young, Librarian of Congress 1897-1899: the Northwest Gallery (then called "Curtain") and Pavilion, where the Jefferson exhibition is today; the Southwest Gallery and Pavilion, today's location of the "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" exhibition; and the Southeast Pavilion, which is between the Hispanic and European Divisions. The Library's first "exhibitions," mounted in 1898, were displays of prints from the Department of Graphic Arts and rare and early printed books. No printed descriptions of the items exhibited have been located.
The first major Library of Congress exhibition, and the first to be well documented, was one that the Library mounted about its own activities in the U.S. government pavilion at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition or "World's Fair" in St. Louis in 1904. A Library of Congress Exhibits Office was not, however, formally established until 1942.
Following is a sampling of the variety of exhibition descriptions, catalogs and checklists produced by the Library prior to the Bicentennial. Unless otherwise noted, the publisher is the Library of Congress.
- The Library's 1904 Annual Report includes as an appendix (pp. 227- 287), a detailed report about the Library's exhibition at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. It includes a diagram of the layout, photographs and a complete description of the exhibition's major sections and all of the items displayed from the Library's collections. The Library also published a series of pamphlets describing the exhibition.
- Catalog of the 2nd National Exhibition of Prints Made During the Current Year, Held at the Library of Congress, May 1-July 1, 1944. 28 p.
- The Jefferson Bicentennial, 1743-1943. A catalog of the exhibitions that opened at the Library of Congress on April 12, 1943. It includes "The Permanence of Jefferson," an address delivered at the Library on April 13 by Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. 171 pages.
- Kansas and Nebraska: Centennial of the Territories. 72 pages, 1959. This catalog for one in a series of exhibitions commemorating anniversaries in histories of various states also contains an address at the exhibition opening by Kansas Sen. Andrew Schoeppel.
- Image of America: Early Photography, 1839-1900. A catalog of an exhibition at the Library that was on display Feb. 8-April 22, 1957. 88 pages. In the preface, exhibits officer Herbert J. Sanborn explained that the 348 photographs were selected "on the basis of the importance of the subject in depicting various aspects of American history, life, and progress," and that the exhibition "was assembled in the hope that it would make the photographic resources of the Library better known and encourage the further use of them.
- Fifty Years of Animation: Building a Better Mouse, by J. Michael Barrier, 1978. 36 p. The catalog for a ground-breaking popular culture exhibition on display at the Library from Nov. 21, 1978 -- Jan. 30, 1979.
- The American Cowboy, by Lonn Taylor and Ingrid Maar. 228 pages, 1983. One of the Library's first "coffee table" books, this volume documents a major exhibition presented at the Library on March 26, 1983-Oct. 2, 1983. It presents essays, many color illustrations and a four-page list of "exhibition items not illustrated." In his acknowledgments, project coordinator Lonn Taylor calls "The American Cowboy" exhibition and catalog "the most extensive study of an American folk hero ever undertaken by a public institution."
- Living Traditions of Russian Faith: Books and Manuscripts of the Old Believers, by Abby Smith and Vladimir Budaragin. 51 pages, 1990. This booklet describes and presents color photographs of books in an exhibit displayed by the Library of Congress during the May-June 1990 visit to America of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
- From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress, by Abraham J. Karp. 376 pages, 1991. A volume based on an exhibition marking the 75th anniversary of the Library's Hebraic Section.
- Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library & Renaissance Culture, edited by Anthony Grafton. Published in association with the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. 323 pages. A book of scholarly essays published as an "accompanying volume" to a major Library of Congress exhibition of items from the Vatican Library that was on display Jan. 6-April 30, 1993. The volume contains 216 color plates of individual items, plus detailed captions.
Mr. Cole is director of the Center for the Book and co-chair of the Bicentennial Steering Committee.