By CYPRESS WALKER
Thomas Jefferson, who said “there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer,” might have smiled at the sight of Junior Fellows twirling through an obscure 1920s ballroom-dance pattern amidst demonstrations of digital databases, airplane pop-up images, Arabic calligraphy and a panoply of other finds among the Library’s special collections.
As co-curators of an Aug. 5 exhibit for staff, press and members of the public, members of the 2009 Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program brought to life more than 100 items they had selected from previously under-explored collections with table displays, digital presentations and even musical performances. Cello melodies and a waltz-like dance were among the highlights.
For the fifth summer in a row, talented college students from around the country undertook the task of increasing access to specially selected collections that the Library had acquired over the years by gift and copyright deposit. Working for 10 weeks with staff specialists in 18 different divisions, 46 Junior Fellows created finding aides for items in the Library’s ever-growing inventory of more than 140 million objects or helped develop programs and initiatives and prepare collections to be featured in forthcoming Library exhibitions.
The 2009 Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program was made possible by the largesse of the late Mrs. Jefferson Patterson and the James Madison Council, the Library’s private-sector advisory board.
Beth Davis-Brown, chairwoman of the 2009 Junior Fellows Program, opened the fellows’ one-day exhibit with salutatory remarks welcoming guests and introducing speaker Jeremy Adamson, director for Collections and Library Services.
Addressing a large audience in the Kluge Center meeting room in the Jefferson Building, Adamson said the event was “a unique opportunity to view a broad selection of items from the collections that are rarely, if ever, on public display. It gives staff and visitors an opportunity to learn about the significance of these materials from the fellows.” He touted the fellows’ work with special collections and other projects, including fellow Liz Brennan’s programming modules for the Center for the Book’s soon-to-open Young Readers Center. Adamson identified the Young Readers Center as an asset to the Library’s mission to “stimulate young readers into lifelong learners.”
As a ballroom dancer, Adamson said he particularly enjoyed Music Division fellows Kristen Armstrong’s and Mel Whitehead’s performance of a five-step ballroom dance invented in 1924, with violin and keyboard accompaniment by fellow interns Veronica Kiss and James Sandberg. Adamson thanked the program’s supervisors and the fellows, who, he said, “made a very special contribution to the role and value of the national library through their focus on increasing information about and access to collections. It was a very fruitful summer, and we’re indebted to them for their contributions.”
Visitors enjoyed the educational and eye-catching displays featuring rare books, maps, prints, photographs and other multiformat collections from the United States. and around the world. American treasures included an 1899 advertisement from the U.S. Copyright office for Kutnow Effervescent Powder, a medicinal concoction that figured in a murder case, and another for a rubber dress shield from 1898, designed to protect a corseted lady’s garments from sweat stains.
Also on display were original drawings by political cartoonist Herbert Block, whose centennial birthday the Library will commemorate with an exhibition this fall, and an illustrated George Gershwin songbook inscribed to his “favorite director” Rouben Mamoulian.
John O’Hara, a fellow in the Asian Division, had the chance to interview Japanese-American graphic designer James Miho and study his conceptual diaries. Miho’s pen-and-watercolor journals offer insights into his creative process and research. Miho made an appearance during the display, taking time to discuss his donation of personal papers and more than 50 conceptual diaries dating from 1960 to 2008. “On-the-spot research is important because it makes my subjects more real during the project,” explained Miho.
A number of Junior Fellows drew on their strengths in international studies and languages as they worked with collections documenting the diversity of human thought and culture represented at the Library. Fellow Maya Shwayder displayed American Yiddish sheet music for “Bei Mir Bist du Schoen,” which songwriter Sholom Secunda sold for $30 shortly before the Andrews Sisters made it a hit. Beside her, fellow Dalia Abuadas showed examples of Arabic calligraphy.
Hispanic Division fellows Marisa McGrann and Francis Watlington laid out a selection of items from the collection of Romy Medeiros da Fonseca, a driving force in the Brazilian Women’s Movement who helped secure women’s right to vote and to join the military. Margaret Fraser of Prints and Photographs and Heather Ball of Manuscripts presented family photographs and personal letters from Sigmund Freud. The Library’s first Wolfskill intern, Erica Jackson, featured Russian author Vladimir Nabokov’s notes from a touring-lecture series, describing them as “a map of the mind” charting his thought process.
European Division fellow Catherine Blair teamed up with Rare Book fellow Elizabeth Everson to show Russian treasures from the Yudin Collection, including a first-edition copy of “The Possessed” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and an emblem book commissioned by Peter the Great during his first trip to Western Europe. In another example of cross-fertilization and collaboration, the American Folklife Center and the Hispanic Division worked together on a presentation of Brazilian chapbooks or cordels described by Fellow Amy Jankowski as “interactive” bite-sized verse pamphlets that chronicle Brazilian folk culture.
Interns from the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division in Culpeper, Va., worked with the Tony Schwartz and John E. Allen Collections. Fellows Mia Conner, Shanea Goldizen and Lauren O’Connor exhibited a wide variety of early moving images while Greg Surber displayed the first known recordings of “Day-O” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Said Surber of his time combing through the musical archives, “It was like being a kid in a candy store!”
For their project “On the Record,” fellows Jennifer Green and Brian Norberg worked to build an integrated database of all Library special collections. Andrew Walker in the Geography and Maps Division helped develop a new geospatial finding aid, which allows users to superimpose Civil War era maps from the Hotchkiss Collection onto the GoogleEarth globe. Veterans History Project interns Jaime Dicks, Erin Nuckols, and Alison Trulock worked on different aspects of the program and interviewed American war veterans, including Asian Division Chief Peter Young who discussed his Vietnam experience.
The 2009 Summer Junior Fellows display celebrated the interconnectedness of collections, drawing attention to the national and international scope of human creativity found in the Library of Congress. Beyond reflecting the rich significance of the Library’s collections and programs, the fellows illustrated the value of partnering staff experts with promising young professionals to expand access and visibility.
Cypress Walker was a summer intern in the Library’s Publishing Office.