To document citizens’ efforts to mark the historic inauguration of Barack Obama, the American Folklife Center (AFC) in the Library of Congress initiated a project to collect audio and video recordings of sermons and orations that commented on the significance of the event. These include sermons and orations that were delivered at churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship, as well as before humanist congregations and other secular gatherings.
Congregations and groups interested in contributing to this once-in-a-lifetime Inauguration 2009 Sermons and Orations Project were asked to record sermons and orations delivered during Inauguration Week 2009 and donate them to the Library of Congress by Feb. 27, 2009. The donated recordings will be preserved at the AFC in order to enhance the nation’s historical record and preserve the voices of religious leaders other orators for researchers and scholars of the future. After being processed by archivists, the collection will be made available to scholars, students and the general public.
In addition to audio and video recordings, the AFC collected written texts of sermons and orations (submitted in the form of print or electronic media), as well as printed programs from the events during which the sermons and orations were delivered. For more information about the project, go to www.loc.gov/folklife/inaugural/.
Over many decades, the AFC has documented everyday citizens’ reactions to major historic events in our collective American experience. For instance, man-on-the-street interviews were recorded on the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941; Italian Americans were documented to celebrate the Columbus quincentenary in 1992; interviews were conducted with Americans across the nation in the weeks following the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001; and the Veterans History Project is preserving the personal experience stories of Americans who served the nation in wartime. These voices of ordinary Americans responding to extraordinary events exist as valuable research collections for the scholars of today and they are a cultural legacy preserved for future generations.