By ERIN ALLEN
On July 26, the Library of Congress formally took possession of the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va. The facility, a $155 million gift from the Packard Humanities Institute, will house nearly 6 million audiovisual treasures from the Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound (MBRS) Division. (See Information Bulletin, July/August 2007.)
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington told Washington Post reporter Jackie Trescott that the new facility “assures for the first time the permanent storage and preservation and heightened access to the audiovisual heritage of the last 110 years.”
“The building is like a giant computer,” MBRS Division Chief Greg Lukow told Washington Times reporter Deborah Dietch. “It allows dramatic increases in the amount of our collections that we are able to digitize and preserve.”
Variety reporter William Triplett focused on the facility’s collections and services. He interviewed Gene DeAnna, head of the Library’s recorded sound section, who said, “The facility represents a revolution in access.… It is preservation, yes, but preservation for access.”
Also making headlines in August was the Librarian of Congress’ announcement of Yugoslavian-born surrealist poet Charles Simic as the nation’s 15th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.
Simic immigrated to the United States in the early 1950s following a difficult childhood complicated by the events of World War II. He and his mother joined his father in New York and then moved to Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago.
“I’m sort of the product of history; Hitler and Stalin were my travel agents,” he told New York Times reporter Motoko Rich. “If they weren’t around, I probably would have stayed on the same street where I was born.”
Adam Kirsch of the New York Sun said that Simic’s poetry style is “like nothing else in American literature. Yet [his] verse remains recognizably American—not just in its grainy, hard-boiled textures, straight out of 1940s film noir, but in the very confidence of its eclecticism.” Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse said that Simic’s “down to earth, hey-it-ain’t-rocket-science approach to appreciating poetry is part of his appeal.”
Simic currently resides in New Hampshire; news of his appointment was featured in local outlets such as The Concord Monitor and The Union Leader. Both noted the state’s proclivity for producing poet laureates, including Donald Hall and Maxine Kumin. “There must be something in the water,” Kumin recently told The Concord Monitor.
Other outlets running stories about Simic’s appointment were Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Reuters, The International Herald Tribune, Guardian Unlimited, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, USINFO, Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, the Herald-Leader of Lexington, Ky., Deseret Morning News of Salt Lake City, The Houston Chronicle, The Myrtle Beach Sun-News, The Record in New Jersey, Rocky Mountain News in Denver, St. Petersburg Times and Sun-Sentinel in Florida, Staten Island Advance, Chicago Tribune, Slate Magazine, Detroit Free Press, Newsday, UPI, 24 Hours and The Globe and Mail in Canada, The Book Standard and Web sites kansascity.com and kmareka.com. An Associated Press story by Holly Ramer was picked up by the Contra Costa Times, Knoxville News-Sentinel, The Virginian-Pilot, The Daily Gleaner, The Buffalo News, The Boston Herald and courant.com (the Web site for The Harford Courant).
The Library made another landmark announcement this summer—the closure of its “American Treasures of the Library of Congress” exhibition on Aug. 18, in preparation for a new interactive experience for visitors, opening April 2008. (See Information Bulletin, July/August 2007.) The rotating exhibition, which had been on view for a decade, featured some 2,700 treasured artifacts, such as a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and early films by Thomas Edison.
Announcing the exhibition’s closing were The Washington Post and Express, USA Today, Newark Advocate in Ohio and Roll Call. Irene Chambers, of the Library’s Interpretive Programs Office, was interviewed by Gloria Minor, host of WFPW’s “Metro Watch,” and told local listeners about the final chance to view the exhibition. More than 200 members of the public came to a special evening showing on Aug. 7.
During a private congressional viewing of “American Treasures,” student interns with the Library’s Junior Fellows Summer Intern program had a chance to show the treasures they unearthed from uncataloged copyright deposits in the Library’s collections. Carl Hartman of The Associated Press paid particular attention to a 1902 musical written by William D. Hall titled “An Extra Session,” depicting a woman president in the year 2002. The article also ran in The Modesto Bee, SanLuisObispo.com and centredaily.com.
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Library’s Public Affairs Office.