February 16, 2011 Symposium to Explore Main Street and Roadside Photographs of John Margolies

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Elizabeth Terry Rose (202) 707-8696

The eccentric landmarks glimpsed on a road trip through a car window and the changing commercial vistas on familiar hometown streets can reveal much about America’s past and present. John Margolies has made a life’s work of documenting and sharing such monuments and environments in photographs, packed lectures and popular books. Scholars of design, photography, commercial vernacular and automotive culture will gather at the Library of Congress to discuss Margolies’ work in a symposium titled “Marvels of Roadside and Main Street America: the Itinerant Eye of John Margolies” at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 9. The day-long, five-speaker symposium will be held in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations are needed. Capacity is limited. Organized by the Library’s Center for Architecture, Design and Engineering, the symposium is intended to bring attention and support to the Library’s ongoing acquisition of Margolies’ photographic archive of more than 13,000 images, taken from 1972 to 2008, and his important collection of related vintage photographs, postcards and other printed ephemera. The John Margolies Archive and Collection promises to be a treasure-trove for students and scholars of American roadside, Main Street and popular culture. Speakers for the morning session are:
  • C. Ford Peatross, director of the Center for Architecture, Design and Engineering, who will present introductory remarks in a presentation titled “The Work of John Margolies and the Collections of the Library of Congress.”
  • John Margolies, the photographer and collector himself, who will discuss “Content and Process: 36 Years on the Road Taking Photographs of American Commercial Architecture and Design.”
  • Gabrielle Esperdy, professor of the architecture of the commercial landscape at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and critic of the intersection of architecture, consumerism and modernism in the urban and suburban landscape, who will present “Margolies, Mainstream and Marginal.”
Speakers for the afternoon session are:
  • Phil Patton, the author of books on the transit culture and a writer of automotive design for the New York Times, who will present “Road Sight: John Margolies and the Tradition of Photography on the American Road.”
  • Gail Buckland, author, curator and professor of the history of photography at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, who will talk about Margolies’ work in the context of photographic history.
The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division includes approximately 14.4 million photographs, drawings and prints dating from the 15th century to the present day, including about four million documentary and formative architectural, design and engineering items. The visual collections represent a uniquely rich array of human experience, knowledge, creativity and achievement, touching on almost every realm of endeavor: science, art, invention, government and political struggle, and the recording of history. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/rr/print/. The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds nearly 147 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.


PR 11-035
ISSN 0731-3527