Education Manuscripts Science Technology

Inventing the Modern World

Thomas Alva Edison, slouching like a boss, with some of his inventions, in 1892. Photo: W.K. Dickson. Prints and Photographs Division.

This story appears in the November/December issue of the Library of Congress Magazine.

The beige strip of paper tape, not quite a yard long, lies in a slender box in the Library’s Manuscript Division. The neatly inked letters stretch across the length of it. They are just below a faint series of dots and dashes.

“W-h-a-t h-a-t-h G-o-d w-r-o-u-g-h-t,” it reads.

It is the first telegraph ever sent, from the U.S. Supreme Court chamber on Capitol Hill to the Mount Clare railroad station in Baltimore, by the telegraph’s inventor, Samuel F.B. Morse, on May 24, 1844.

Samuel Morse’s early system of telegraph symbols. Manuscript Division.

It was if the world had shrunk, suddenly shrink-wrapped. People could communicate over dozens, hundreds or thousands of miles in seconds, not in days, weeks or even months. It was the birth of the modern, the world remade in the wake of the industrial revolution, the Victorian era giving way to age of invention.

In the next 59 years — a single human life span — the pastoral world that had dictated the life of mankind for millennia was gone, vanished in a puff of smoke from a passing locomotive. As steam-powered trains and paddle boats multiplied (themselves invented earlier in the century), a multitude of civilization-changing inventions followed. Telephones, typewriters, light bulbs, bicycles, automobiles, dynamite, vaccines, repeating rifles, the motion picture camera, x-rays, recorded sound, phonographs and records, data punch cards and radio — to name but a few — were created or taken to unprecedented levels in that time frame.

And then, on Dec. 17, 1903, on a strip of North Carolina beach, mankind took flight.

“Success four flights thursday morning,” Orville Wright wrote his father that afternoon at 5:25 p.m. He sent it, of course, by telegram.

First flight, the Wright Brothers, Dec. 17, 1903. Photo: John T. Daniels. Prints and Photographs Division. 

The modern world had arrived.

The Library houses a multitude of papers, blueprints, recordings, drawings, images and artifacts that document this dazzling era. The papers of Morse, the Wright brothers and Alexander Graham Bell are here. Collections also include those of Lee de Forest, the “father of radio”; Emile Berliner, whose innovations include flat-disc records and vast improvements in the recording industry; Herman Hollerith, whose data punch cards began modern computing (and formed the foundation of IBM); and even the Albert Tissandier Collection, which documents early balloon flights in France and across Europe. An original print of Edison Film’s “The Great Train Robbery,” is here, as is a cylinder recording of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the 1904 gift that inaugurated the Library’s recording collection.

Still from “The Great Train Robbery,” 1903. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. 

Here, for example, is a Bell sketch of the first telephone and notes describing the first phone call, on March 10, 1876. He wrote his father that day on letterhead from Boston University, narrating the experiment: “I called out into the Transmitting Instrument, ‘Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you’ — and he came!”

“This is a great day with me,” Bell wrote. “I feel that I have at last struck the solution of a great problem — and the day is coming when telegraph wires will be laid on to houses just like water or gas — and friends converse with each other without leaving home.”

He was right — by 1906, more than 2.5 million American homes had telephones.

So quickly did engineers develop mass production of these breakthroughs that the world of a few years earlier began to seem quaint, in much the same way that readers today feel about the world before the internet and cell phones. In 1910, Berliner, a genius on the level of Edison and Bell, was waxing poetic about the world gone by of Washington in the 1880s, when “it required some time to get around, but people had plenty of time then.”

“Every 4th of July the daily paper announced: ‘To-night the electric light will be shone from the Capitol,’ and everybody was down on Pennsylvania Avenue,” he continued. “All at once we would see a brilliant arc light at the lower part of the dome … it was quite an interesting exhibition and everybody enjoyed it very highly.”

Edison invented the first commercially viable light bulb in 1879. So rapidly did electric light spread that by the mid-1890s Henry Ford was the chief engineer for the Edison Illuminating Co. in Detroit and built his first car on nights and weekends. By the time Berliner gave his nostalgic speech in 1910, Ford’s Model T was in mass production.

The modern world was being fashioned around the globe, but most of the above inventions were made in the United States, even though this period was the most violent in national history. The Civil War, the violent white resistance to Reconstruction, settlers warring against Mexico and Native Americans across the West, and the assassinations of three presidents — none of it deterred a restless scientific curiosity in the national spirit.

The racism and chauvinism of the day also dictated that nearly all labs, scientific equipment and funds were reserved for white men. Further, the rough business of legally claiming originality and the resulting profits often involved contentious lawsuits, further contributing to the bars white women and people of color faced.

This was exemplified by Margaret E. Knight, arguably the most famous female inventor of the age. When she invented the flat-bottomed paper bag and a machine for making them in 1868, a man in the factory stole the idea and tried (unsuccessfully) to claim the copyright. She patented more than 25 other inventions, some as complex as involving rotary engines. “I’m only sorry I couldn’t have had as good a chance as a boy,” she was quoted as saying. Josephine Cochrane of Illinois patented the dishwasher in 1886 with less hassle; her company later became KitchenAid.

“Each weekly issue of the Official Patent Office Gazette now shows a number of new ideas invented and patented by women,” wrote Fred G. Dietrich in 1899, in “The Inventor’s Universal Educator. An Educational Cyclopaedia and Guide.” “The records of the Patent Office bear witness to the fact that the inventive genius of the fair sex is constantly accomplishing remarkable, advantageous and profitable results.”

For black Americans, discrimination was worse.

George Washington Carver, born into slavery in Missouri, found his life’s calling at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama under the auspices of Booker T. Washington. His work on nitrogen depletion in cotton fields — which, he determined, could be reversed by rotating the crop with oxygen-rich plants such as peanuts and sweet potatoes — saved withering cotton yields. Farmers across the South took up the technique, preserving the nation’s most important crop, and Washington was developing the first of more than 400 products that could use peanuts and sweet potatoes.

G.W. Carver, working in a field in Alabama. Photo: Frances Benjamin Johnston. Prints and Photographs Division.

Meanwhile, that pre-1837 generation of humanity, already a sepia-toned memory by 1903 when the Wright brothers took flight, was the last to vanish in the way that no generation will likely do again. It sank into the ocean of time without a record of its voices and sounds, of its images and angles of light; of its slowness of time, of its long quiets of late nights and early afternoons; the last to know such a time as the natural order of the world.

The birth of the modern was the beginning of a new kind of civilization, one infinitely noisier, less patient, more intrusive, more connected and more permanent. The sound and look of things could be engraved on things that lasted, so future generations could see and hear them as they lived.

Berliner, picturing how people might use his Gramophone, imagined a world in which someone might record their voice as a toddler, teenager, adult and then on their death bed — a lifetime, recorded on a single disc, for anyone to hear, across the ages.

“Will this not seem,” he wondered, “like holding veritable communion with immortality?”

Berliner, working with one of his records. Prints and Photographs Division. 

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Inventing the Modern World

Education National Library Service (NLS)

“The Exquisite Corpse” Turns 10!

Ten years ago, the Library of Congress’s website embarked on an adventure in collaboration with the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance.

The project was called “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure,” and over the course of 27 weekly episodes, many of the nation’s top writers and illustrators for young people  contributed words and pictures to this madcap story written and illustrated in sequential format. It was the like the Exquisite Corpse game devised by Surrealist artists, in which one artist would draw of part of person and then another artist would add to it, and then another artist …

More than 400,000 readers around the world eagerly awaited the posting of a new episode. The success of the online version resulted in a print version being published by Candlewick and an audio version from Brilliance Audio. You can also listen to an audio version from the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, a free service provided by the Library of Congress.

To maximize the reading, writing and artistic opportunities of the story, the NCBLA has created an updated comprehensive Education Resource Center, available free to all adults who live and work with young people. These online materials include direct links to the story game on, as well as supplemental articles to inspire progressive storytelling and games, complementary reading lists and classroom activities. The NCBLA is grateful to its colleagues at the Butler Children’s Literature Center at Dominican University for their work in developing many of these education materials. Additional writing exercises are available on the website of our literacy partner Reading Rockets.

The authors and illustrators who contributed to “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure” are M.T. Anderson, Natalie Babbitt, Calef Brown, Susan Cooper, Kate DiCamillo, Timothy Basil Ering, Jack Gantos, Nikki Grimes, Shannon Hale, Steven Kellogg, Gregory Maguire, Megan McDonald, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Linda Sue Park, Katherine Paterson, James Ransome, Jon Scieszka, Lemony Snicket, and Chris Van Dusen.

The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded by award-winning young people’s authors and illustrators. Acting as an independent creative agent or in partnership with interested parties, the NCBLA develops original projects, programs and educational outreach that advocate for and educate about literacy, literature, libraries, the arts and humanities.

Some of the “Corpse” contributers, pictured here at the 2011 National Book Festival (left to right): Jack Gantos, NCBLA Executive Director Mary Brigid Barrett, Fredrick McKissack, Patricia McKissack, Calef Brown, Katherine Paterson, Gregory Maguire, Susan Cooper and Chris Van Dusen.

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“The Exquisite Corpse” Turns 10!

Education My Job Researcher Stories Science Technology

My Job: Introducing the Library’s Einstein Distinguished Educator

Kellie Taylor. Photo by Ars Nova.

Kellie Taylor is the Library’s first-ever Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator. The fellowship program appoints accomplished K–12 teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — the STEM fields — to collaborate with federal agencies and congressional offices in advancing STEM education across the country.

Taylor has a doctorate in educational technology from Boise State University. She teaches K–5 engineering at the Galileo STEM Academy, a public school in Eagle, Idaho. She started at the Library last September and will be in residence until July in the Learning and Innovation Office.

As a STEM teacher, what resources at the Library captivate you?
I can’t get enough of the Alexander Graham Bell papers. His notebooks about kites and aeronautics include not only data sets and photographs, but also hand-sketched measured drawings that can inspire students to imagine their own designs. Bell’s correspondence with his wife, Mabel Hubbard Bell, provides insights into his successes and failures — of which there were more than a few.

“My dear — I do so appreciate all the wonderful unfailing, uncomplaining patience that you have shown in all your work and the quiet persistent courage with which you have gone on after one failure after another,” Mable wrote to her husband. “How many have there been, how often an experiment from which you hoped great things, has proved contrary. How very very few and far apart have been your successes.  And yet nothing has been able to shake your faith, to stop you in your work.”

Bell’s papers can inspire students to create new designs while learning about past innovations  — and also encourage them to persevere.

What are a couple of your stand-out projects so far?
In collaboration with the Young Readers Center, I developed the “History of Printing Family Workshop: From Clay Seals to 3D Printing.” Adults attend the pilot workshop with the children in their lives to learn about the history and importance of printing through hands-on activities, and they design their own type or stamps in a web-based computer-aided design, or CAD, platform. The primary sources used in the activities help highlight the advancements in printing, promote creative imaginings for the future of print technology and encourage creation using modern print technology.

As an engineering teacher, I enjoy connecting hands-on activities to the history revealed by primary sources. In collaboration with Carolyn Bennett, this year’s teacher-in-residence, I created a project that allows students to learn about the history of bugle calls in the Civil War as a form of communication and then program their own bugle calls. With this one project, students can then learn about creating music, coding, and communication. A sample program and instructions are available on the Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Teacher Network, which is funded by a grant from the Library.

How are you sharing the resources you’ve discovered?
The TPS Teacher Network has been essential for organizing materials as well as making them available for public use. The free network connects educators to resources and professional development opportunities for using primary sources from the Library’s collections. Materials for any activities I develop can be found on the network, including projects still in development. Many of these activities are featured on the Learning and Innovation Office’s blog, Teaching with the Library of Congress. I have also been able to write articles for the National Science Teachers Association journal to which the Learning and Innovation Office contributes monthly.

Within my home state of Idaho, I’m working with the Idaho Department of Education, the Idaho Commission for Libraries and the Idaho STEM Action Center to create opportunities for professional development and resources for Idaho educators to integrate primary sources into the classroom through STEM.

How will your year at the Library inform your teaching?
The digitization of collections makes the Library available to anyone with internet access. I’ll continue to develop and share activities when I am back in the classroom. I value the real-world contextualization that primary-source analysis provides students. I can’t wait for my students to dive in!

What do you wish more STEM educators knew about the Library?
There really is something for everyone. Integrating primary sources into classroom instruction connects students to the history of technology. Activities such as the “History of Printing Workshop” foster inquiry through analysis of primary sources and hands-on learning. And that they should challenge students to identify problems within primary sources and develop their own solutions.

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My Job: Introducing the Library’s Einstein Distinguished Educator

Education Technology

New for research! LibGuides

Today, we want to give a heads-up to our researchers to make sure they know that the Library is part of LibGuides, where thousands of libraries post and share their research guides.

If you’re not already familiar: The guides show what’s available on a given subject, highlight key books, subscription databases and primary historical sources. They’re a great tool for researchers, from the beginner to the expert, particularly since the information has been vetted by a librarian. Better, LibGuides are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Here at the Library, you might have heard of our research guides referred to as bibliographies, subject overviews, webguides, or a virtual reference shelf. These guides (there are more than 50) cover a vast array of subjects: the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; American Realism; BREXIT; Halloween & Día de Muertos Resources; Native American History and Culture: Finding Pictures; Rosa Parks and so on. We are always updating these and adding new ones.

LibGuides has been so seamlessly implemented you probably haven’t noticed. In a Google search about a particular subject, for example, you’ll see the Library higher in your search results. Click on the link, and you’ll find our reference material. Experienced researchers, who might start a search at, will also find the guides incorporated in the list of all the Library’s resources; no separate searching is needed.

Questions? Just hit the “Ask a Librarian” button on any guides to get friendly help.  Meanwhile, some frequent questions about research methods are answered below by our LibGuides coordinating team.

Can a researcher ask that a new guide be created? How do librarians prepare these subject overviews?  Suggestions for new guides are welcome! Please send them to the Ask a Librarian service. Librarians start a new guide by outlining the topic, investigating the different types of resources available, and confirming which sources are reliable. Descriptive notes indicate the scope of a source or draw attention to a special feature. We’re sharing our best advice about where to locate useful information, whether you need an overview of a subject, tips for starting points, or comprehensive and exhaustive coverage.

The “Beginner Guides” series for law topics on In Custodia Legis and look interesting, with more than 10 guides already released.  We want to create guides that help with daily life. To that end, we have recently published “Landlord-Tenant Law: A Beginner’s Guide,” “Neighbor Law: A Beginner’s Guide,” and “Small Claims Court: A Beginner’s Guide,”  “Legal Drafting: A Beginner’s Guide,” “Wills, Probate, and Advance Directives: A Beginner’s Guide.”

Why do you include old as well as new books, subscription databases, subject headings, and external websites in the guides?  As reference librarians, we include both historical and recent sources because it is important to provide researchers with broad and deep coverage of authoritative sources on a topic.  The research guides have links to subscription databases so that researchers are aware of ways to access thousands of sources, such as scholarly journal articles, historical and current newspapers and periodicals, auction records, art images, and much more.  Many of the research guides contain Library of Congress subject headings as a way to narrow and focus a user’s search in online catalogs. Links to important collections and items at external institutions are included to give researchers a wide array of resources.

Do I have to come to the Library of Congress?  No. Many of the sources are available in other libraries or online collections. For the subscription databases, rare books, and unique historical documents, please contact us for information about availability.

LibGuides Working Group: Front, l-r: Debora Keysor, Laura Berberian, Barbara Bavis. Back, l-r: Elizabeth (Betsy) Fulford, Donna Brearcliffe. Not pictured: Jamie Bresner

How can I can find these guides?  You can start with an Internet search service, such as Google or Bing. Try a search for “13th amendment” and you’ll likely see “” early in the search results.  Or, if you are already on the Library of Congress website, any search will include the Library’s LibGuides publications.  Online collections and other Web pages at the Library also link directly to relevant LibGuides.

What else should researchers should know about using LibGuides?   Keep sending us your questions!  Every “research guide” from the Library of Congress includes an “Ask a Librarian” box for easy access to our reference librarians. We’re here to help you succeed with your research by email, in person, or by phone. Learn more: Mann, Thomas, 1948- The Oxford Guide to Library Research. Fourth edition. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, [2015]. Springshare. LibGuides Community.

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New for research! LibGuides

Education Events

Children’s Book Week: Classic Freebies

Children’s Book Week is 100 years old this year, and there are a lot of cool things to do and see at your favorite national library. Here, let’s check out a handful of insanely popular titles that kids were reading in 1919, when the very first book week was launched. This is particularly fun because all of these are FREE on our website.

A century ago, the population of the U.S. was less than a third of what it is now (106 million), large parts of the country were without electricity, indoor plumbing or even the illumination to read by. Not only did people still look up when they saw an airplane go overhead, virtually no one had seen an airplane go overhead. World War I had ended, but the Roaring Twenties hadn’t started. It would be nearly a decade before movies had sound. It was an era of long silences and quiet nights; when reading words printed on paper was still the dominant means of mass entertainment.


Let’s jump right in with some extraterrestrial adventure that starts in…Virginia. Well, of course. Where else would you start your interplanetary travel?

This is “A Princess of Mars,” the first adventure of John Carter, in which a southern gentleman escapes the depressing aftermath of the Civil War by heading for a gold mine in Arizona and winding up on Mars. It could happen to anyone.  Complications ensue.

Chicago native Edgar Rice Burroughs created Carter in a magazine serial in 1912, the same year he created Carter’s more famous counterpart, John Clayton, aka Tarzan. (Burroughs’ prodigious imagination did not seem to apply in picking names for his heroes.)  “Princess”  was published as a full novel in 1917, was a runaway success, and nine more books followed. If he wasn’t the Lord of the Apes, he was still kind of a big deal.

Burroughs opens the book, writing as himself, in the foreword. He makes the (fictional) claim that he was a boy of five, living in antebellum Virginia, when the dark, handsome Carter showed up at the family homestead, a great friend of his father’s. (It is a jolt when he casually says that his family owned slaves.) Carter is a manly man, a first-rate charmer. But then the war breaks out and nobody sees Uncle Jack for 15 years or so. When he returns, there is something curious about him — he does not appear to have aged.  Carter moves to a beautiful cabin on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River in New York. In 1886, he sends an urgent message to Burroughs, summoning him to come at once. But by the time Burroughs arrives, Carter is dead. The body was found in a snowy field, with no marks of violence, arms outstretched to the heavens.

Burroughs is to surprised to learn that he is to receive all of Carter’s wealth, provided he carry out one spectactularly peculiar final request: He must take Carter’s corpse back to Virginia and place it inside an open coffin in a pre-constructed, ventilated burial chamber. The mausoleum has a gold-plated spring lock that can only be opened … from the inside.

That’s the first few pages. Not bad, not at all. Then you get to go to Mars. And, as our illustration documents, Carter swashbuckles his way across the red planet with a kilt and a really big belt. Love.

Long before Little Orphan Annie was everyone’s favorite 11-year-old red-headed orphan, everybody’s favorite 11-year-old red-headed orphan was the loquacious Canadian, Anne Shirley. She’s better known as “Anne of Green Gables,” she predates her comic counterpart by 16 years, and since Lucy Maud Montgomery’s brought her to fictional life in 1908, more than 50 million readers have gulped down her adventures in some three dozen languages.

There are no monsters or extraterrestrials and not even a princess in this one. It’s 1874, and Green Gables is a quiet little spot in a quiet little corner of Prince Edward Island, just off the coast of  the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In this sleepy stretch of farmland, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an aging brother and sister, tend a farm. They have agreed to adopt a strapping boy from a Nova Scotia orphanage. He’ll get a new home; they’ll get a farmhand.

Except there’s a mistake in the orphanage shipping department, because it’s slender, bony Anne who gets off the train! Matthew is just fine with this. Marilla, though, wants to send Anne packing back to the orphange for a gender-based exchange.

Literary history is relieved that she didn’t, for its Anne who gives the Cuthberts new life, the little town of Avonlea a new spark and generations of readers a new friend. Two world wars have come and gone, airplanes and spaceships, cell phones and Netflix, and still Anne  has been there all these many years, waiting to play by the creek.

The final line — ” ‘God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,’ whispered Anne softly” — reads more like a benediction as the years pass, a gentle ode to a quiet corner of the world, tucked in just so.

Generally, when a woman loses a brand new shoe on her way out of a really hot party, as Cinderella does here, bad things happen. She is grumpy the entire way home, the good vibes vanish, and the remaining shoe is likely to be thrown, at the very least, at or in the closet.

Cue Prince Charming, Patron Saint of Lost Footwear. Everything turns out spiffy.

This is short, perfect for a bedtime story, and an excellent reminder that very little in life beats a fairy godmother with a keen sense of sartorial style.

Wolves have a hard time of it in kid lit, let’s be honest.

From “Little Red Riding Hood” to “The Story of the Three Little Pigs,” the wolf is always sharp of tooth but not of mind. (Cross-dressing as a little old lady? Who does that?)

But you can’t have a selection of kids’ stories without a big bad wolf (or a dark forest), and, besides, “Pigs” is one of the all-time champs for adults who like to make ridiculous narrative voices while reading bedtime stories. There’s the basso profundo joy of  “Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll bbbbllllooooow your house in!” and the falsetto delight of “Not by the hair of my chinny chinny chin!”

This 1904 retelling, published by the Frederick Warne Co. with illustrations by Leslie Brooke, highlights the benefits of solid home construction and the perils of working with cheap contractors, messages as modern as anything you’ll hear on HGTV.

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Children’s Book Week: Classic Freebies

Education Music Researcher Stories

Inquiring Minds: Carolyn Bennett, Teacher-in-Residence

Carolyn Bennett. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Carolyn Bennett teaches music at Wheeler Middle/High School in North Stonington, Connecticut. This year, however, she’s taking a break from the classroom — with the goal of adding to her instructional repertoire.

She is working with the Library’s Learning and Innovation Office as a teacher-in-residence, researching online resources at the Library that she and other teachers across the country can incorporate into the classroom. At the same time, she is contributing to a National Association of Music Education (NAFME) curriculum-development project that draws on digitized materials at the Library.

Here, Bennett answers a few questions about her experience at the Library.

Tell us a little about your teaching.
I teach students in grades 6 to 12, specializing in chorus, piano, guitar, theory and general music. My goal is to equip my students to be self-sufficient, musical people for the rest of their lives through listening perceptively, performing effectively and composing creatively. Pursuing these musical skills builds so many qualities that allow us to live full, human lives: cooperation, determination, innovation, confidence.

What inspired you to apply for residency at the Library?
Much of the repertoire I present to my students — folk songs from around the world, spirituals, pieces built on the 12-bar blues progression — is powerfully tied to the identity, history and viewpoint of its creators. Students need resources to make the context for these pieces come alive. Often, searching for resources would lead me to primary sources at the Library. I was intrigued by the opportunity to spend a year immersing myself and sharing my discoveries with music-educator colleagues.

Which collection items stand out to you so far?
Lowell Mason was an early proponent of music’s place in public education. In 1837, he became America’s first public-school music teacher. He jointly compiled “The Boston Glee Book,” a choral anthology for schools, which the Library holds. Many of the pieces charmingly address concepts that are still relevant in today’s music classroom. I can’t wait to perform “Come Sing This Round with Me” with my choir next year. By singing pieces from this anthology, students can directly participate in a historically American value: the belief that education, including arts education, is an important gift we freely give to the next generation.

In 1940, Irene Williams met with Ruby and John Lomax to describe her early years in slavery. In an audio recording in the collections, she recalls church services and sings a beautiful rendition of “Keep Your Lamp a Trimmed and Burning.” This is a piece my middle-school choirs have performed several times over the years. How powerful for them to hear it directly from a woman who survived slavery!

I have shared other gems through posts on the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog.

What is your involvement in the NAFME curriculum-development project?
Supported by a grant from the Library’s Teaching with Primary Sources program, the National Association for Music Education has been developing lesson units that introduce students to primary-source materials from the Library. Published units run the gamut: from enabling advanced high-school orchestras to contextualize Aaron Copland to inviting second-graders to explore creative movement with the Victor Orchestra on the National Jukebox. The lessons align with national core arts standards and are available online.

This year, my project team has focused on composition: How can the Library’s primary sources inspire students to think more creatively? Students in pilot tests are analyzing unconventional nursery rhymes from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division; they are investigating the contexts that gave rise to various work songs; and they are writing original soundtracks to Edison films. I’m eager to hear the students’ final compositions and also to witness how primary sources can deepen the ways students think about music.

How would you describe the value of the Library’s collections for teachers?
A group of 3-year-olds recently visited the Young Readers Center, and I was invited to sing “Sally Go Round the Sun” with them. In 1934, 19-year-old Alan Lomax, traveling with his father, had heard eight girls singing the song and insisted they record. This impulse to curate and preserve would stay with Lomax his whole life, later leading astronomer Carl Sagan to invite him to work on the Golden Record project in which phonograph recordings were launched aboard the Voyager spacecraft in 1977.

Of course, I didn’t share this story with the 3-year-olds, but it was my personal fascination:  Lomax’s musical imagination, captured by going “round the sun” in 1934, led to him compiling the first album to exit the solar system decades later.

The group and I had a grand time learning the song and trying out the movements described by several sources in the Library’s collections. Afterward, one older chaperone shared that she had sung this song in her own childhood. She had completely forgotten it until she heard the music and saw the children play. The music led her to rediscover a part of herself that she could now share with her young students.

To me, this shows the value of the Library’s collections: They connect us to other places, other times and, most importantly, other people. Teachers can use the Library’s treasures to bring the voices of the past into the minds of the future.

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Inquiring Minds: Carolyn Bennett, Teacher-in-Residence

Audiovisual Education Exhibitions New Online Video

New Online: Educating the Public about Education

This is a guest post by Amanda Reichenbach about a new American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) collection covering education reporting on public television. The AAPB is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the Boston public broadcaster WGBH. Reichenbach worked on the release while interning last summer at the Library’s John W. Kluge Center. The previous summer, in an internship with the Library’s Junior Fellows Program, she worked with newly digitized material related to the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, made available online last year by the AAPB. Reichenbach has a B.A. in history from Yale University and teaches history at the Groton School in Massachusetts.

Amanda Reichenbach

Last month, I contributed to a roundtable at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) encouraging historians to use public broadcasting archives in their research. I attempted to show why broadcasts are useful to the historian in a different way than, say, newspapers or even commercial television. It seems to me, for example, that watching the Watergate hearings — the subject of my 2017 Library of Congress internship — draws the researcher into the drama that kept Americans glued to their televisions in summer 1973 more powerfully than simply reading the transcripts can do.

So why use public television archives to tell a story about education, the subject of my most recent internship? What special angle do these broadcasts offer? Three snapshots stand out to me, illustrating why I believe the videos in the exhibit have so much to offer historians.

Public Television and Student Activist Groups
In the early years of public television, documentary producers had special access to groups like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) thanks to a reputation for progressive coverage; student groups often blocked commercial networks from filming their meetings. “NET was the only network organization offered unrestricted access to the strategy meetings of these groups, giving NET an edge in its coverage of the student movement,” recounted historian Carolyn Brooks, referring to National Educational Television, an early attempt at a public television network, which operated from 1953 to 1972. This access resulted in a slew of fascinating films documenting campus unrest in the final years of the 1960s. One documentary, “Diary of a Student Revolution,” was filmed at the University of Connecticut in December 1968 during a wave of student protests surrounding on-campus recruiting by military contractors. One crew followed the UConn branch of SDS, while another monitored the president of the university, Homer D. Babbidge Jr. In the final cut, the viewer is a fly on two rather different walls, witnessing reactions to events on both sides of the battle simultaneously. Such compelling cinema was made possible by the implicit trust the student groups had for public television producers. Listen to a clip below.

Public Television to Build Investment in Local Institutions
In the 1980s, after public television had gained more traction, local school boards saw the medium as an opportunity to build investment in their schools. From Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver, to WCTE in Cookeville, Tennessee, to Southern Oregon Public Television and the New Jersey Network, school administrators found their way onto the television schedule. These broadcasts capture one local institution — public television — supporting another — the public school system — working together toward the broader goals of community growth and democratic citizenship. One of the values of the AAPB collection is that it does not just capture history from the perspective of major cities, but also from local communities across the country as they cope with new national problems.

The broadcast “Their School? Your School!” calls attention to building projects needed by New Jersey’s public schools.

Excellence in Education Coverage
For years, John Merrow, one of the most well-respected education journalists, found his home in public broadcasting. Following the publication of “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform” in 1983, television coverage of educational stories expanded. However, the education beat tended to go to entry-level journalists and had the distinct flavor of “youth at risk” sensationalism. Merrow bucked this trend with thoughtful commentary on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour and in his stand-alone documentaries, collectively called “The Merrow Report.” With his commitment to asking tough questions and following up on stories, Merrow set the gold standard for what education coverage should look like, all on public television.

These are just a few of the examples from the archive of public education reporting. But they reflect public television’s goal: to educate and serve the public. In pursuit of this goal, member stations have produced compelling, thoughtful local programs like these and many more over the past 50-plus years. This content is a gold mine for the historian.

Source: LoC Blogs
New Online: Educating the Public about Education

Education My Job

My Job at the Library: Engaging Spanish Speakers with the Collections

Benny Seda-Galarza joined the Library’s Communications Office a little more than a year ago as a public affairs specialist. Fluent in English and Spanish, he is helping to reach out to the Spanish-speaking community to raise awareness about the Library’s programs and services. In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, Seda-Galarza answers a few questions about his background and career.

Benny Seda-Galarza. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Where did you grow up and go to school?
I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean also known as “La Isla del encanto” – the island of enchantment. Imagine summer all year long, a salty breeze and trips to the beach in December – it is paradise! When I went to college, however, “home” became more of a state of mind. My alma mater is the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. I also did an exchange program at New York University on scholarship and studied abroad at the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain.

What drew you to New York?
I always wanted to become fluent in English and overcome the language barrier I thought I had. At one point, I became obsessed with “Mad Men” – the TV show based on the booming advertising industry of the 1950s in New York City – which fueled my desire to live in the city that never sleeps. Since New York University offered a scholarship to students from my university, it felt like a no-brainer – perfect my English and live in the city of my dreams. It was challenging at times, but it forced me to get out of my comfort zone. It is one of the best decisions I made in college. Being fully bilingual has opened many doors for me professionally, and it has also enabled me to support others in my community.

How did you make your way to Washington, D.C., and the Library?
After living in New York, I interned in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in D.C. and was later hired as a marketing specialist to lead efforts related to agricultural commodities. Beyond my daily duties, I supported outreach to the Hispanic and LGBTQ+ communities. When the Library announced a position involving reaching out to Spanish speakers, I was delighted to apply.

Describe your job at the Library.
I like to tell friends that I share the treasures of the world’s largest library with the nation and beyond. That means leading internal and external communications and marketing for new acquisitions, digital initiatives and public programs – from 16th-century manuscripts to audio books and online educational apps – on behalf of multiple Library divisions. I also write for Library publications.

In addition, my role involves planning and executing outreach to diverse audiences, including the Spanish-speaking community – I develop communications materials in Spanish and will soon establish a formal plan to support the Library’s engagement of Spanish speakers.

What events have you most enjoyed working on so far?
In my experience, every program or event in the Library is unique, and I truly enjoy the dynamism of working on totally different projects. However, if I were forced to choose, I would say it was pretty neat to meet André Aciman, author of one of my favorite novels, “Call Me by Your Name,” as part of the National Pride Month events in the Library.

What is something not many people know about you?
I secretly read my horoscope with my morning coffee, so I guess you can say I am a fan of astrology. I am a Scorpio with a rising in Scorpio as well, which explains a lot about me, and a Gemini moon. If you know, you know.

Source: LoC Blogs
My Job at the Library: Engaging Spanish Speakers with the Collections