By ERIN ALLEN
The media was abuzz with stories following the April 12 opening of the new Library of Congress Experience.
Ed Rothstein of The New York Times offered a review of the “Experience,” including his thoughts on two of the new exhibitions, “Creating the United States” and “Thomas Jefferson’s Library.” Rothstein said he wished that the technology allowed visitors to explore exhibition items and themes even more deeply, but marveled at the ability to get a clearer understanding of history by highlighting the evolution of the nation’s founding documents.
“One way to treat history in an exhibition is to lay out events and surviving objects and explain their importance,” said Rothstein. “Another approach is to show that every product of that immutable past was once something contingent, coming into existence because of choices made. A historical document may appear unchanging, but when it was written, it was growing out of a process of revision and debate. In this light, history is seen as lived experience, I think this is what the library is reaching for with its ‘Experience’ idea.”
Ann Geracimos of the Washington Times said the “Experience” showcases the Library’s history and holdings in innovative ways that are a bit flashy. According to Geracimos, “Some dignified flash probably is good for a place that too often is regarded by the uninformed as off limits except to scholars and, of course, members of Congress.”
“That’s not to say the show inside isn’t educational,” she continued. “There is plenty to please scholars traditionally drawn to the resources of the world’s largest library, as well as more casual visitors.”
“Touch, not shush” was the slogan USA Today gave to the new initiative, and the blog dcist was happy to report that the Library has “made it fully into the 21st century.”
Kathy Dempsey of infotoday.com said that the Library has again put itself at the forefront of the digitization movement with the “Experience.” She credits the institution’s knowledgeable curators for conveying interesting tidbits about some of the items on display.
Also covering the debut of the Library of Congress Experience were Roll Call, the New York Times Magazine, The Orange County Register, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Miami Herald, Web sites such as CNET news.com, newsblaze.com and blogs like the Seattle Post Intelligencer’s Book Patrol.
The Library’s partnership with Microsoft for the interactive technology and Terremark Federal Group, Inc., for the Web site myLOC.gov, was the focus of a number of stories about the new Experience in technology publications such as PC World, Web Host Industry Review, Government Technology and Web sites like efluxmedia.com, arstechnica.com and tophosts.com.
Touting the Library of Congress Experience as a “must see” were outlets like Destination DC, the blog DC Traveler and the Web site jaunted.com, which made sure to mention that even with the addition of innovative technologies, visiting the nation’s library is still free.
The Library’s naming of eight Living Legends as part of the April 12 festivities garnered press attention. Don Bostrom of The Morning Call in Pennsylvania interviewed racing legend Mario Andretti, one of the eight medal recipients and a resident of that state.
“The Library of Congress is visited by millions and millions of people from around the world,” said Andretti. “It’s going to be pretty neat to be part of something like that.”
Also running announcements of the new Living Legends were ABC News, which interviewed medal recipient Cokie Roberts, The Associated Press, Radio World Newspaper, the DC Examiner, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Plain Dealer (Cleveland) and the San Antonio Express-News.
Just as the Library of Congress Experience is making collections more accessible through new exhibitions, innovative technology and a companion Web site, the Library is committed to providing physical access to its collections for research purposes. To that end, the institution recently lowered the minimum age for access to the Main Reading Room from 18 to 16. (See story on page 86.) Running briefs on the new policy were the washingtonpost.com and one of its web logs, Joel Achenbach’s “achenblog.” Roll Call reporters Elizabeth Brotherton and Emily Yehle pointed out that this is the first time in almost a half-century that high-schoolers can use the facility.
Through a non-exclusive partnership with History™, the Library plans to showcase its collections to the public through innovative educational programming. (See story on page 87.) Abbe Raven, president and CEO of A&E TV Networks, told Daily Variety that one of History’s goals is to draw on the wealth of the Library materials and use the company’s filmmaking and storytelling experience to create specific shows for History™. “We’ll look for the story behind the artifacts,” said Raven.
An Associated Press story about the partnership with History™ was picked up by outlets such as Christian Science Monitor, the Plain Dealer (Cleveland), the Dallas Morning News, the Denver Post, the Detroit News, the Houston Chronicle, the LA Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Times-Picayune (New Orleans), the New York Daily News, the New York Post, The New York Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Richmond Times Dispatch, the San Jose Mercury News, the Seattle Post-Intellingencer, the Seattle Times, the St. Petersburg Times (Florida), the Tampa Tribune, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, Newsweek and National Public Radio.
In addition, other stories about the partnership ran in outlets including Reuters, The Hollywood Reporter, Roll Call, VNU Entertainment News Wire, Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and cable360.net.
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Library’s Public Affairs Office.