By ERIN ALLEN
The Library of Congress exhibition “Exploring the Early Americas” (see Information Bulletin, January/February 2008) and its signature artifact, the 1507 Martin Waldseemüller World Map, continued to make headlines throughout February.
Edward Rothstein of The New York Times reviewed the Library’s exhibition and one at the Field Museum in Chicago with similar themes.
“One virtue of the [Library of Congress] exhibition is that it avoids the distortions of sentimental history. By illuminating multiple perspectives tempered by careful judgment, in which the achievements of past cultures are appreciated, the horrors of the conquest chronicled, and the legacy and subsequent interaction reflected in documents and maps, the complexities of the past become more apparent.”
Frank Greve of McClatchy News Service interviewed John Hessler of the Library’s Geography and Maps Division for a profile on the Waldseemüller map. Hessler recently penned the book “The Naming of America” about the map known as “America’s birth certificate. Greve discussed the map’s “high-tech protection” in an argon gas-filled glass case “just like the cases that hold the original Constitution and Declaration of Independence, but bigger.”
Greve’s story was syndicated to outlets including The Miami Herald, Chattanooga Times Free Press, The State (South Carolina), The Lexington Herald Leader (Kentucky), Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, Centre Daily Times (Pennsylvania), The Kansas City Star, pantagraph.com and baltimoresun.com.
When it comes to naming items in its collections, the Library is hoping the public will help. The institution has launched a pilot project with Flickr, a popular Web-based photo sharing resource, to make a selection of its historical photographs available for tagging, comments and notes.
According to Brian Braiker of Newsweek.com, the response has been “instantaneous and overwhelmingly positive. Within 24 hours of the project’s launch, all 3,115 images had been viewed at least once (with 650,000 total views), more than 500 pictures had received comments, and 4,000 unique tags had been added.” He added, “The [Library’s] catalog is, of course, the property of We the People. So in a way it seems natural to tap into our aggregate wisdom to learn more about the pictures that define us,” he said. NPR reporter Cyrus Farivar interviewed Flickr’s George Oates, who expressed the egalitarian aspects of the project. “Having content from the Library of Congress just nestled amongst other photos from everyone else around the world creates a level playing field.”
Matt Raymond, the Library director of communications, spoke with Roll Call reporter Emily Yehle about the initiative. “By catching the public’s interest on popular sites [like Flickr], the Library can reel people into its own Web site and gain more interest.”
Other outlets running news of the partnership included the Chicago Tribune, Government Computer News, American Libraries, Library Journal, Arizona Daily Wildcat (University of Arizona), Lowell (Mass.) Sun, WUSA-TV9 (Washington) and Web sites spokesmanreview.com, CNETnews.com, popphoto.com, cinemablend.com, computerworld.com, photodistrictnews.com, thejournal.com and webpronews.com.
In another January announcement, the Library named children’s author Jon Scieszka as the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His books “The Stinky Cheese Man” and “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” have received much acclaim.
“I was just so honored when the Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council guys called me,” Scieszka told Greg Toppo of USA Today. “I mean, at first I really did think they’d made some kind of mistake. But, I thought that was cool that they actually thought, ‘Yeah, let’s start this with a guy who writes funny stuff.’”
Walter Minkel, reporter for School Library Journal, said of Scieszka “With his good-natured wit and knack for knowing what kids need, [he] seems like the perfect guy for the challenge.”
Scieszka told Roll Call reporter Jessica DaSilva that he is optimistic about sparking increased interest in children’s literature and hopes to spread the message that children should be involved in selecting what they read, both at home and in school.
Other outlets running stories about Scieszka and his new national role in promoting literacy included Time for Kids, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, School Library Journal, Voice of America, NPR, Newsday, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Times, Book Business Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Columbus Dispatch, Sacramento Bee and Web sites about.com and thebookstandard.com.
Roll Call’s DaSilva also ran a story on the Library’s acquisition of the papers of civil rights activist James Forman.
“James Forman Jr. said he vividly remembers walking up the white marble stairs of the Library of Congress with his father, who taught him about the importance of the Library,” she reported.
Gloria Minot of Pacifica Radio’s Washington, D.C., affiliate interviewed Adrienne Cannon of the Manuscript Division who discussed the significance of the Forman collection. The story also ran in print and Web outlets such as Michigan Chronicle, New York Amsterdam News, washingtonpost.com and Diverse-Education.com.
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Library’s Public Affairs Office.