By ERIN ALLEN
To mark President Barack Obama’s historic inauguration on Jan. 20, the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress issued a call for audio and video recordings of sermons and orations about the event. (See story on page 8.)
Rebecca Roberts of National Public Radio interviewed American Folklife Center Director Peggy Bulger about the Sermons and Orations Project.
“We expect that a lot of these speeches and sermons coming in will have the traditional speech patterns and the reactions from the congregation or the audience that will serve to be a piece of history and a piece of folk art.”
Several media outlets featured stories on local churches that intended to participate in the project. The Washington Post ran an Associated Press article featuring Washington’s Foundry United Methodist Church.
Boston Globe reporters attended several services on the Sunday before Inauguration Day, including at the St. Anthony Shrine, where “the Rev. David Covertino spoke about the ‘rebirth’ of the country at a Mass that concluded with a singing of ‘America the Beautiful.’”
Also running stories were PBS, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Broadcasting & Cable, The Post-Standard (New York), South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Virginian-Pilot and blogs Christianity Today, Religion Blog of Dallas Morning News and USA Today’s Faith & Reason.
Speaking of speeches and sermons, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is featured in a film titled “The March” (1964), which was one of 25 titles selected by the Librarian of Congress for induction into the 2008 National Film Registry. The announcement of this year’s selections was made on Dec. 30, 2008. (See story on page 21.) Joining “The March” were such films as “Deliverance,” “Flower Drum Song,” a home movie titled “Disneyland Dream” and “The Terminator.”
“The Terminators may be an army of unstoppable robots hell-bent on the destruction of the human race, but they will always be welcome in the Library of Congress,” said The New York Times.
“Likewise, shouldn’t we try to safeguard ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day”? That way, the cyborgs that peruse our archives after civilization has vanished will learn to utter not simply ‘I’ll be back’ but the equally immortal ‘Hasta la vista, baby,’” said the Los Angeles Times.
The Times Colonist (British Columbia),The Toronto Star, The Washington Post and The Herald Sun (Australia) ran a story by Reuters.
An article written by the Associated Press was also featured in Newsday, the Grand Rapids Press, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and chinadaily.com.
Other outlets running individual stores were The Hollywood Reporter, Daily Variety, websites Reelz-Channel.com, about.com and several New Zealand outlets, which featured the short film by avant-garde New Zealand filmmaker Len Lye, “Free Radicals.”
Also announced in December was an update on the Library’s pilot project with photo-sharing website Flickr. (See story on page 22.) As part of the Library’s Web 2.0 outreach efforts, it was no surprise that the news was picked up on a variety of blogs such as DCist, Library Stuff and Family Matters, which said, “I’m not surprised to see how successful it has been and look forward to seeing even more projects like this. A lot of federal agencies are beginning to experiment with social media to reach out to the public and this shining example provides lots of inspiration.”
Media sites such as PC World, Web Pro News and Washington Internet Daily also touted the success of the project.
The Library’s efforts to make itself accessible can be seen not only in the Flickr pilot but also in the new interactive features found in the Thomas Jefferson Building and on its own website. (See story on page 20.) In December, the Capitol Visitor Center opened, along with a passageway connecting it to the Library.
“It [CVC] provides a splendidly presented civics lesson,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington during an opening ceremony. The new structure “will make the Capitol, the icon of our republic, more accessible to all of us than ever before.” Running his quote were The Associated Press, Agence France Presse and politico.com.
Following the opening of the CVC, the Library debuted its “Passport to Knowledge,” enabling visitors to personalize their visit while exploring the Library’s collections, along with Knowledge Quest, an educational adventure that lets players investigate unique artifacts from the Library’s buildings and exhibitions.
Jude O. Marfil of Roll Call interviewed Robert Sokol, project manager of the Library’s new technologies for visitors. “If you are building your own collection, you are essentially building your own library,” he said.
“Unlike a regular library though, of course, visitors do not have to return their collections,” quipped the reporter.
“There are computer kiosks everywhere, like giant iPhonescreens,” said Charles McGrath of The New York Times. Touch one, and a detail of the building or one of Jefferson’s books or even his rough draft of the Declaration of Independence is in front of you.
“Using a little passport you are issued on entering, you can even save some of these details for further study on your home computer. The Library’s website is so extensive and elaborate that, had I only known, I could have toured the whole place without ever leaving home.”
Lincoln Bible in the News
On Dec. 23, 2008, the Presidential Inaugural Committee announced that President-Elect Barack Obama would take the oath of office on a Bible from the Library’s collections— the same Bible upon which Abraham Lincoln swore March 4, 1861, to uphold the Constitution. (See story on page 4.) The story was popular with the press.
Clark Evans of the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division told both CBS News and USA Today that the Bible was probably one of several that Supreme Court Clerk William Thomas Carroll kept on hand for such occasions. “The Bible used during the inauguration of President James Buchanan is 1857 is nearly identical and also bears Carroll’s signature.”
“It is handled with the greatest of care, this small and ornate book that is looming large as America writes another chapter in presidential history,” said a Jan. 13 report on Colorado’s 9news.com. “It is a book that means so much to so many people. On Inauguration Day, it will become a book that binds two men in the story of America’s history.”
“The Library of Congress is such a wonderful caretaker of all the fabulous treasures we have in this nation,” said Good Morning America anchorwoman Robin Roberts, reporting live from the Library on Jan 19 and 20.
In addition to featuring the Lincoln Bible, the program also looked at a variety of items that will be featured in the upcoming Lincoln exhibition, opening Feb. 12, and talked with Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and Pat Loughney, chief of the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation.
Other broadcast outlets covering the Lincoln Bible and its role in the inauguration were CNN, Fox News, NBC News, PBS and Voice of America.
Print coverage included The Boston Globe, The New York Times and The New York Post, Associated Press, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, DC Examiner, Chicago Tribune, Newsday and The Washington Post in addition to newspapers in Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, California, Michigan and Utah, among others.
Running stories on the web were UPI.com, salon.com, politico.com and blogs Digital Journal, Blogs for Victory, Donklephant, Tapped and Religion and Values.
The story also made news internationally, including The Press Trust of India, the Japan Economic Newswire, Agence France Presse, The Mirror (London), Hindustan Times, Indo-Asian News Service, The National Post (Canada) and The Townsville Bulletin (Australia).
Billington Honored with Presidential Medal
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, in a White House Ceremony on Dec. 10, received the Presidential Citizens Medal in honor of “his stewardship of the Library of Congress and his dedication to strengthening the cultural life of our nation.”
Awarded by President George W. Bush, the citation states: “For more than two decades, Dr. James H. Billington has overseen the largest library in the world and our nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, the Library of Congress. A champion of interactive and innovative technology, he has helped connect countless individuals with resources to help them learn about defining moments in the life of our nation.”
Second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Presidential Citizens Medal was established on Nov. 13, 1969, to recognize U.S. citizens “who have performed exemplary deeds of service for the nation.”
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Library’s Public Affairs Office.