By GAIL M. FINEBERG
Finished and furnished in mahogany, staffed to assist scholars, and equipped with new computers, a scanner, and a microfilm reader, the John W. Kluge Center is ready to receive the world's top scholars. The center celebrated on July 17 with an open house in its renovated Thomas Jefferson Building space. Finished and furnished in mahogany, staffed to assist scholars, and equipped with new computers, a scanner, and a microfilm reader, the John W. Kluge Center is ready to receive the world's top scholars. The center celebrated on July 17 with an open house in its renovated Thomas Jefferson Building space.
Library curators, research specialists and reference librarians, as well as other staff members, came to tour the quarters—26 cubicles for Kluge fellows on the upper level of the colonnade and 13 offices below for visiting senior scholars, plus staff offices and space for conferences and small-group meetings or demonstrations.
Prosser Gifford, director of the Office of Scholarly Programs who heads the center, observed that the design and location of resident scholars' offices "combine privacy and congeniality. Both eminent senior scholars and younger post-doctoral fellows will be in residence, sharing intellectual and social space while using the Library's vast research collections," Gifford said.
Completion of the center's renovation, together with the arrival this summer of the first group of scholars to use the space, is the realization of a dream that James H. Billington had nurtured since 1987, the year he was appointed Librarian of Congress.
"When I was sworn in, I said I hoped that the Library would go out more broadly, using digital technology to make its magnificent collections available more widely, and that scholars would go in more deeply, interacting with the Library's diverse, multicultural, multimedia collections," the Librarian recalled.
He thanked three people: his wife, Marjorie, for encouraging him to pursue his ideas; John Kluge for believing in his ideas and endowing five chairs for distinguished senior scholars, up to a dozen post-doctoral fellowships, staff fellowships, and a prize to be awarded to a scholar for lifetime achievement in the human sciences; and Gifford for overseeing the project and attending to all the details that made the dream come true.
"Prosser is the sort of public servant who is able to talk to the best minds in the world, but who will take a screwdriver and see to the smallest detail," the Librarian said. "And behind him is the great staff of the Library, who know the depth of the collections, are dedicated to scholarship, and have an aptitude for asking questions that serve as a catalyst for ideas and interaction with the materials," he said.
Later, Billington recalled one Saturday morning during the spring of the Library's bicentennial year, in 2000, when he sat at his kitchen table musing about the state of the Library over a cup of coffee with his wife, "as I often do."
The Library's bicentennial celebration had been a headline-grabbing success, with a year-long succession of symposia, exhibitions, publications, commemoratives, congressional proclamations, gifts to the nation, concerts, local legacies and more. Information in digital format was beginning to flow from the Library's historical collections to the Internet like champagne from a bottle—to use the metaphor Billington had repeated often since 1987 to describe his goal of making the Library's collections more easily accessible to researchers and the public. Congress and generous donors were supportive of his vision, and millions of dollars in private and appropriated funds were flowing into the Library to enhance and preserve the collections and build a library without walls.
But there was one more major thing he wanted to accomplish, he told his wife. He envisioned the world's scholars gathering at the Library to interact with the collections and the Library's own scholars and curators. He envisioned scholars in residence "going deep" into subjects that fascinated them, searching for answers among the Library's manuscripts, maps, prints, photographs, music, newspapers, broadsides—materials in some 460 languages. He pictured them thinking, writing, testing their theories on one another, and engaging in informal conversations with members of Congress as well as with one another and Library staff.
In his mind's 18th-century eye, he saw the framers—the thinkers and doers of their time—as they applied their knowledge of world history, governments and new political theories to the creation of American self-government. He imagined that a center for scholars within the Library could revive that interplay of ideas and actions, that the world's thinkers of today could share their knowledge, insights and wisdom with the nation's doers—the legislators who formulate national policy and oversee the bureaucracies, who are the defenders of the homeland and declarers of war and peace.
"Well, write it all down," his wife said. And so he did. For two days he sat typing at his computer at home and drafted his vision of a Library of Congress center for scholars.
Then he called John W. Kluge, who as the founding chairman of the Library's Madison Council in 1990 had given generously to one Library project after another. Billington explained the rationale and particulars of his vision. "He seemed to like the idea," he recalled.
In a few days, Kluge called back with an unequivocal "Yes," he would help the Librarian realize his dream.
"John Kluge is the exemplar of a benefactor," the Librarian said. "He framed not a single condition, not a single question. And he did not even ask that his name be given to the center."
On Oct. 5, 2000, the Librarian joined with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), then chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and of the Joint Committee on the Library, to announce that Metromedia President John Kluge had given $60 million to the Library to establish the scholars' center and prize.
About his gift, Kluge said then, "I hope the free exchange of ideas that will take place here between scholars and lawmakers will enhance our democratic society."
On that occasion, Billington said: "This magnificent gift by John W. Kluge will enable us to make an added contribution to restoring that wonderful, creative interaction between the world of thought and the world of action, between knowledge and the power of the mind, which is embedded in the very nature of the Library of Congress itself."
Kluge Center Welcomes New Scholars
The first group of residential scholars to occupy the center's renovated location are arriving during July and August of 2002; five are recipients of grants through the Library's Kluge Fellowship program, the Rockefeller Humanities Fellowships in Islamic Studies program, and the Library of Congress International Studies Fellowship-Mellon Program. The fellows include Susan Hirsch, Jennifer Keene, Helgard Mahrdt, Mina Marefat and Pamela Swett. In addition, the center will host several other distinguished visiting scholars during the summer, including Edward Ayers, Derrick de Kerckhove and Jean Bethke Elshtain.
Susan F. Hirsch, Rockefeller Humanities Fellow in Islamic Studies, will focus on "The Embassy Bombings Reframed: Constructing Identities, Legal Meanings, and Justice" during her stay at the Library of Congress. She hopes to produce a volume of essays drawing on her personal experiences confronting tragedy in the embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as well as her research in New York City after September 11, 2001. Hirsch received her doctorate from Duke University in 1990. In 1997-98, she was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Dar es Salaam, and she is currently chair of the department of anthropology at Wesleyan University. Hirsch is the author of numerous articles on law and society in Islamic culture; her book, "Pronouncing and Persevering: Gender and the Discourses of Disputing in an African Islamic Court," was published in 1998.
Jennifer Keene, a Library of Congress International Studies-Mellon Program Fellow, will be working on a project titled "La Force Noire: African American and West African Soldiers in the Great War"—an attempt to compare the experiences of African Americans to those of West African colonial troops in France during the First World War—in order to test the widely-held belief that France was a color-blind society. Keene, who has been on the faculty of the University of Redlands since 1996, previously taught at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Université de Paris XII and Carnegie-Mellon University.
Helgard Mahrdt, recipient of a Kluge Fellowship, will be studying "Hannah Arendt's Political Thinking in the Mirror of Her Literary Portraits." A German scholar working in Norway, Mahrdt was trained in literature and political science at the universities in Göttingen and Bremen. She received her doctorate at the University of Tromsø and is on the faculty of the German department at the University of Oslo. Her studies have been funded in part by the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, the Norwegian Research Council and the German Literature Archive.
Library of Congress Rockefeller Humanities Fellow in Islamic Studies, Mina Marefat, will be examining "Zaher va Baten: Complexity and Contradiction in Islamic Architecture: A Case Study of Teheran." Marefat spoke at the Library's conference on Globalization and Identity in Muslim Societies conference in September 2000. President of Design Research Inc., an architecture and design firm in Washington, D.C., Marefat was formerly the senior architectural historian at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, where she initiated new research and public programs. She teaches and writes on modernism, culture and architecture and is director of architectural education for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
Kluge Fellow Pamela Swett, assistant professor of history at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, will focus on "Selling Under the Swastika: The Refashioning of German Advertising After 1933." A 1992 graduate of Bryn Mawr College, she continued her studies at Brown University where she received her doctorate in 1999. While a graduate student, she was awarded research grants from the German Academic Exchange Service and the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation for work in Berlin, Germany. Her dissertation, "Neighborhood Mobilization and the Violence of Collapse: Berlin Political Culture, 1929-1933," received Brown University's Joukowsky Family Dissertation Award for a distinguished thesis in the social sciences.
Papamarkou Consultant Derrick de Kerckhove will be exploring the relationship between alphabets, books and people of different cultures. De Kerckhove is director of the McLuhan Program in Culture & Technology and professor in the department of French at the University of Toronto. He received his doctorate in French language and literature from the University of Toronto in 1975 and a doctorate in the sociology of art from the University of Tours (France) in 1979. From 1972 to 1980, he worked with Marshall McLuhan as translator, assistant and co-author. In addition to his interest and research in technology and communication, de Kerckhove is promoting a new field of artistic endeavor, which brings together art, engineering and emerging communication technologies. Beginning in January 2003, he will become the first occupant of the Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education.
Papamarkou Consultant Edward L. Ayers is dean of the college and graduate school of arts and sciences, University of Virginia, and co-author, with Anne S. Rubin, of the CD- ROM, "The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War-The Eve of War" (2000). He will be meeting with history teachers in North Carolina on creative ways to use the Library's American Memory Web site before coming to the Library for continuing discussions on the use of the Internet in education. Ayers, who received his bachelor's from the University of Tennessee in 1974 and his doctorate from Yale in 1980, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001. Among his many honors are the Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Award, given in 1993 by the Southern Historical Association for the best book on Southern history, and the James Rawly prize, given in 1992 by the Organization of American Historians for the best book on the history of race relations in the United States.
Jean Bethke Elshtain is a member of the Library's Scholars' Council, an advisory group that assists the Librarian in matters pertaining to the Kluge Center and the Kluge Prize. While in residence at the Kluge Center, she will explore "Early Modern Theories of State Sovereignty." Elshtain is the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago. She is the author of many books, including "The Jane Addams Reader" (2001) and "Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy" (2001). She is the editor of "The Family in Political Thought" and the author of more than 400 articles and essays in scholarly journals and journals of civic opinion. In 1996, she was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A recipient of seven honorary degrees, Elshtain is co-chair of the recently established Pew Forum on Religion and American Public Life.
For more information about the John W. Kluge Center, contact the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., Washington, DC 20540-4860; telephone (202) 707-3302, fax (202) 707-3595; e-mail: email@example.com. Web: www.loc.gov/kluge.
Gail M. Fineberg is the editor of the Library's staff newspaper, The Gazette. Robert Saladini, one of the Library's Leadership Development Program fellows, contributed to this article.