By AUDREY FISCHER
Surrounded by a display of projects and acquisitions made possible by their support, the James Madison Council celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Library of Congress on Oct. 6. Since its founding in 1990, the Library's private sector advisory group -- currently with 103 members -- has provided $134.6 million in support of 208 Library initiatives.
"Today it is the Library's turn to thank the Madison Council and to try to show in a concrete way how your support has made an important difference to all of us and the people we serve," said Dr. Billington at the council's recent business meeting. "The Library is a different place today than it was 10 years ago. We are more outwardly focused, and there is a new can-do spirit pervading the institution."
Invoking his favorite metaphor for making the Library's vast resources freely available on the Internet (www.loc.gov) to people throughout the nation and the world, Dr. Billington said, "The champagne is not only out of the bottle, it's overflowing."
Dr. Billington introduced Madison Council Chairman and Metromedia President John Kluge as "the man of the hour," having the previous day announced his unprecedented gift to the Library of $60 million to establish the John W. Kluge Center in the Library and the John W. Kluge Prize in the Human Sciences. The center will include five endowed chairs in areas such as American law and governance, the cultures and societies of the North and the South, technology and society, and modern culture.
Mr. Kluge in turn introduced the "energizer of the group," Edwin L. Cox, vice chairman of the Madison Council, who established the American Legacy Fund -- the Library's first and only endowment to sustain its acquisitions program. Mr. Kluge surprised Mr. Cox with a framed tribute to him from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) "for support to the nation's library." The senator's remarks were entered into the Congressional Record on Oct. 3.
Treasurer of the United States Mary Ellen Withrow was on hand to present Mr. Kluge with a plaque to thank the Madison Council for its strong support of the sale of the Library's Bicentennial commemorative coins. At this writing, the U.S. Mint had sold nearly 240,000 silver coins and more than 32,000 bimetallic coins. A surcharge of more than $3 million from the sale of these coins will be used to support Library of Congress programs.
Madison Council Treasurer Leonard Silverstein described an "extraordinary decade of giving by the council," which began in 1990 with $1.1 million (19 percent of all private sector gifts to the Library that year). Ten years later in 2000 -- the Library's Bicentennial year, the council gave $71.8 million in gifts to the Library, or 83 percent, of private gifts to the Library. He also reported that of the $106 million the Library has received through the "Gifts to the Nation" Bicentennial initiative, the Council has contributed $87.1 million, or 82 percent, of the total.
Then it was time for a few founding members of the council to express what their involvement with the Library staff as well as with Library's collections have meant to them. Betsy Bloomingdale recalled how in 1989 (at a dinner for former president Ronald Reagan) Dr. Billington first mentioned to her his wish to involve the private sector in Library of Congress programs. Several years later, at a party at her house attended by Dr. Billington, Bob Hope and Samuel Brylawski of the Library's Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, the seed for the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment was planted. Since its opening in the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building on May 9, the Bob Hope Gallery has had many visitors -- including Ms. Bloomingdale and her granddaughter. During their visit, Mr. Brylawski recalled that "it all started at your house."
Associate Librarian for Library Services Winston Tabb then had the daunting task of highlighting just a handful of the more than 200 initiatives supported by the council. Underscoring the council's support for collection development, he announced new acquisitions. The first purchase from the Cox American Legacy Fund is "Pike's Peak or Bust," a series of 20 Gold Rush drawings depicting the artist's overland journey from Missouri to the gold camps of Colorado and California in 1859-60. Mr. Tabb then introduced several members of his staff who discussed other key initiatives supported by the council.
"What if you came to the Library of Congress and there was no one there to greet you, direct you or take you on a tour?" asked Visitor Services Officer Teresa Sierra. Thanks to the Madison Council, that is not the case, as the Library now boasts a cadre of 175 volunteers, including council member Ed Miller. With seed money from the Madison Council, the Library has implemented a successful volunteer program, which includes professionals in every field. "The Library is self-selecting," said Ms. Sierra. "Only the best come here."
Interpretive Programs Officer Irene Chambers thanked the council for supporting 17 exhibitions, which "transformed the Library's exhibition program. During the past 10 years, Madison Council-supported exhibitions and their travel have reached more than 3 million people in this country and an additional 200,000 in Europe," she said. "That total includes 110 U.S. locations and 39 states. By 2003, these totals will include 12 foreign countries and five continents." Ms. Chambers also noted that online versions of these exhibitions have reached tens of millions, with some 2.3 million online transactions recorded each month.
"Imagine what we would have today if, in 1899, the eighth Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putman, had asked all Americans to document their lives and communities in pictures and print and sound recordings," said American Folklife Center Director Peggy Bulger. "Thanks to the support of the Madison Council, in 1999, Dr. Billington was able to put just such a grassroots effort in place when he launched Local Legacies -- a project of unprecedented proportion that has created a snapshot of American life at the turn of the 21st century." Working through their member of Congress, people in every state and territory in the nation produced a wealth of documentation that has become part of the Library's collections, with selections accessible on the Library's Web site. As a direct result of the Local Legacies project, a bill was just passed unanimously in the House that calls upon the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress to collect the oral histories and memoirs of American war veterans. The bill will be introduced by Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.).
The Madison Council has also generously supported the Library's commitment to film preservation. In 1988 President Reagan signed into law the National Film Preservation Act, which established the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board and National Film Registry. "In 1994 the Madison Council provided a seed grant of $100,000 to help the Library fulfill its congressional mandate to promote public awareness of the problem," said Patrick Loughney of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. A plan was then formulated to produce a traveling series of motion pictures, restored by the Library, contributing movie studios and other film archives. The seed money, which allowed the tour to travel to 30 states, was then leveraged to garner additional funds amounting to more than $500,000 (including a grant of $250,000 from American Movie Classics). Mr. Loughney acknowledged Madison Council members Don Jones and James Earl Jones, who have lent their time to the project.
Dr. Billington demonstrated the importance of the council's support for the National Digital Library Program with a multimedia presentation featuring selections from the Library's American historical collections on its American Memory Web site. "It began with an ambitious dream of combining the latest technology with the best collections, working collaboratively with other institutions and relying on the talents of a dedicated staff," said Dr. Billington. As a result, the Library has exceeded its goal of digitizing 5 million items by the year 2000. "To further bridge the 'digital divide,' the Library recently launched a state-of-the-art, interactive, child and family friendly Web site called America's Library [www.americaslibrary.gov]," said Dr. Billington. With generous support from the Madison Council's Bicentennial Fund, the site is being publicized by the Ad Council -- its first national public service campaign for a library.
The event concluded with a reading of an excerpt of The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk. Designated a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress, but unable to attend the awards ceremony held on April 24, 2000, the Library's Bicentennial, Mr. Wouk then received his medal from Dr. Billington.
Ms. Fischer is a public affairs specialist in the Public Affairs Office.