Contact: Yvonne French (202) 707-9191
July 22, 1997
Automotive Memorabilia Featured in "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" Exhibition
Raymond Loewy's original sketch for the Avanti automobile is on display along with a bumper-crop of automobile memorabilia in the "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" exhibition.
Loewy was one of the primary innovators in modern industrial design. He redefined the look of everything he designed, from logos to locomotives. For many years Loewy served as the principal designer for the Studebaker Corporation, and in 1961 he was called upon to design a new automobile to save the company. Loewy sent sketches from his Paris office to help in the effort. They resulted in the "Avanti," a rare instance in which the merits of a product caused it to survive the failure of the company that produced it.
A display of Loewy's sketches for the Avanti are on view in the "American Treasures of the Library of Congress," the first permanent exhibition of the rarest and most significant items in the history of the world's largest library. Twelve sketches, in fluid marker on paper, are being shown one at a time in the exhibition. Each month, a different sketch is displayed. Due to their fragility and sensitivity to light, several such items in the exhibition will be replaced with equally important items beginning in August. The exhibition opened May 1.
Other automotive highlights in the exhibition include gas maps and early Rand McNally maps, an Edward Penfield watercolor illustration of motorists on a picnic, and two cookbooks especially for motorists, one of which offers the following suggestion: "Canned beans, tamales, chili con carne, chicken and many other substantials can be packed in with the engine and kept hot or heated on the way with no danger of taint from gasoline."
The automobile memorabilia is displayed alongside other American treasures such as the earliest surviving book printed in North America, early baseball cards, the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets on the night of his assassination and Susan B. Anthony's personal copy of the transcript of the trial resulting from her arrest in 1872 for voting.
A digital audio tour featuring selections from the holdings of the Library will enrich the visitor's experience with an array of memories. Listeners can hear as much or as little narration as they wish, as well as the actual voices of presidents, poets and other famous figures from the Library's audio collections, including Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Frost and Woodrow Wilson. The 2-hour audio tour also features music, including the voices of Beverly Sills and Jelly Roll Morton. Visitors may currently rent the hand-held audio wand for the reduced rate of $2.50.
Harry N. Abrams Inc. has published a companion volume with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills and a foreword by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. American Treasures in the Library of Congress: Memory/Reason/Imagination ($39.95) is available in the Library sales shops and wherever books are sold. Select items from the exhibition are also available on-line at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/.
The exhibition, made possible by a $1.1 million grant from the Xerox Foundation, is the centerpiece of a yearlong celebration marking the official reopening during its 100th anniversary of the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building after a 12-year restoration.
Exhibition hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Same-day, timed-entry tickets are available free from 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the Visitors' Information Desk in the Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First St. S.E. For a recorded announcement about the exhibition, call (202) 707- 3834.
Advance tickets are available only from Ticketmaster for $2.75 plus a $1.25 handling fee per order by calling (202) 432-SEAT in Washington, (410) 481-SEAT in Baltimore and (703) 573-SEAT in Virginia. Out-of-state callers may dial (800) 551-SEAT toll-free.
Note to press: transparencies of Loewy's sketches for the Avanti automobile and of other automobile memorabilia in the exhibition are available from the Public Affairs Office. Call (202) 707-9191 to arrange for delivery of duplicates.
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