By GUY LAMOLINARA
“National Treasure” is the title of a popular series of Hollywood films that began in 2004. But the Library of Congress has been using the expression far longer to describe its more than 141 million items, especially those with iconic status, such as Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.
So it is only fitting that the Library’s new educational “road show,” which recently brought the riches of the Library to selected cities across the country, be dubbed “National Treasures, Local Treasures: The Library of Congress at Your Fingertips.”
The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress organized the tour this fall in association with its state centers for the book in Florida, Colorado, Texas and California.
“The state centers did a remarkable job in hosting this important educational program, highlighting national and local treasures available online,” said John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book.
Each event began with a screening of a special feature available with the DVD for “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets,” filmed in part in the Library’s extraordinary Thomas Jefferson Building. Participating libraries were presented with a copy of the DVD, the new edition of Cole’s book “On These Walls: Inscriptions and Quotations of the Library of Congress” and a facsimile of a historic map of their local area from the Library’s Geography and Map Division.
Elizabeth Ridgway, director of the Library’s Educational Outreach Office, and her colleagues Sherrie Galloway and Gail Petri demonstrated the new interactive Library of Congress Experience (myLOC.gov) to students and educators at each venue. The Experience comprises a series of new exhibitions and a continuing online educational component on that personalized website.
The Florida Center for the Book hosted the first event at the Broward County Public Library in Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 19. Ridgway greeted an audience of more than 100 sixth-graders and their teachers from the Plantation Middle School in Broward County and demonstrated how they could use the Library’s primary online sources in their studies. The public library was presented with a bird’s eye view map of St. Augustine, Fla. (1589).
Florida resident Barbara Parker, a former prosecutor with the state attorney’s office in Dade County, Fla., and a New York Times best-selling author, was a special guest. She is the author of 12 mysteries, including “Suspicion of Malice,” which was a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American author. She researched her book “Perfect Fake” in the Library’s map collections.
On Oct. 27, the Denver Central Library and the Colorado Center for the Book welcomed Library staff along with special guests Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). On behalf of the Denver Public Library, they accepted a high-resolution facsimile of a 1908 panoramic map of Denver from the Library’s collections.
“I am an ardent enthusiast of history and the library system right here in Colorado and throughout this great nation,” said Allard. “I spent many hours here and in other libraries working on my book, and I believe they are priceless institutions. America and the world are at our fingertips in every library. Often, if someone in my D.C. office cannot get a hold of me, I can be found in the reading room at the Library of Congress.”
Two local finalists in the River of Words (www.riverofwords.org) environmental art and poetry contest sponsored by the Center for the Book read their prize-winning poems.
On Nov. 24, the tour made its third stop at the Dallas Public Library’s J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, which mounted a special exhibition of local treasures. The public library was presented with a facsimile of an 1892 map of Dallas from the nation’s library.
More than 40 students from the Dallas public schools and their teachers participated in the event and a student from St. John’s School in Houston read his winning entry in the Letters About Literature (www.lettersaboutliterature.org) competition. The contest, which is sponsored by the Center for the Book in cooperation with Target, encourages students write to an author about how that author’s work affected their life.
“The Library of Congress is one of the great places in the United States,” said Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), who attended the event. “It belongs to the American people and it houses your treasures.”
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who also participated in the event, referred to the Library of Congress as a “national treasure” for its collections and its service to Congress. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington thanked Sessions and all the members of Congress for being the “greatest supporters of libraries in the history of the world.”
The San Francisco Main Library was the site of the fourth stop on the tour. On Dec. 11, Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, a California native, read from her work. She was joined by a young California poet who participated in the River of Words environmental poetry and art contest. The San Francisco Main Library received a facsimile of a map of San Francisco (1846) from the Library’s collections.
The series of tours concluded the following day at the Los Angeles Public Library. The Library of Congress honored a special request for the 1937 map of the stars, known officially as “Hollywood Starland,” featuring film legends Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Shirley Temple. The map is online on the Library’s American Memory website.
Upon viewing the map, participating Los Angeles author Nina Revoyr decided to read from her work “The Age of Dreaming,” about a Japanese silent film star who has outlived his Hollywood fame. The novel, like all of the stops on the tour, highlighted local history.
Guy Lamolinara is the communications officer for the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.