". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, January 16, 2009

Library of Congress

Since so many people are converging on D.C. this weekend, The NY Times has provided a guide to the LOC as a tourist might visit the facility, with the focus on its core and the mission vision of the LOC Founder, Thomas Jefferson. Rather than sell off his wine cellar for much needed cash, Our First Debtor sold his library to the government for $24,000 -- guess he'd already sold off his 'spare' slaves for that year.

The building, designed by John L. Smithmeyer and Paul J. Pelz, was meant to overwhelm, and it does. The ceilings are vast and ornate. The staircases rise like great pastries of marble. There are arches, pillars, domes and skylights, and virtually every surface is decorated — with a mural or a mosaic, some gold leaf, a statue or some ingenious little putti. Standing in the Great Hall and gazing upward is like finding yourself inside a FabergĂ© egg. If great thoughts — not just the idle reflections of the moment, but the really big ideas — could take physical shape, this is probably what they would look like. The sensation you feel is one of mental levitation — like wisdom, only more exciting. In the Great Hall there are two bronze statues holding aloft not the torch of knowledge but the light bulb of illumination. This is appropriate, since the building was one of the first in Washington to be constructed with electrical wiring.

And the library may be the most technologically enhanced tourist site in Washington. There are computer kiosks everywhere, like giant iPhone screens. Touch one, and a detail of the building or one of Jefferson’s books or even his rough draft of the Declaration of Independence is in front of you; touch it again for a close-up, a translation or an explanation. Using a little passport you are issued on entering, part of the official “Library of Congress experience,” you can even save some of these details for further study on your home computer.

The library’s Web site {I use it all the time} is so extensive and elaborate that, had I only known, I could have toured the whole place without ever leaving home.

The Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building, is at First Street SE, Washington.[End Quote]

I've been to the LOC, but most of my time there was taken up with copyright law and procedure seminars and touring the underground copyright registration and cataloging facilities. The LOC is one of the very best research facilities in the world, and it is something this nation should rightfully be proud of. It was the most efficiently operated institution anywhere -- until Reagan decided that a national library was nothing a government should be supporting and began the cutting funds and staff, particularly cutting funds for hiring staff. He wanted to eliminate the Library of Congress.

NeoCONS, never miss a chance to CON the nation out of what it needs and what works in their never-ending drive to destroy government and turn the U.S.A. into the Congo. You don't like government? Move to Somalia, advises da Fox. (Don't think the cons have dropped their mission just because Barack Obama is going to sit in the Oval Office either.)


Renegade Eye said...

I will have to save your remark about those who don't like government.

The conservatives still didn't learn anything. Even to push an antigovernment agenda, you need the government to work right.

Nobody is harder on Jefferson than you.

Foxessa said...

Well, Ren, somebody has to take on that job! :)

But it becomes inevitable when you've spent as much time with Jefferson as I / we have! Vaquero's even more so, if possible.

Though we do tend to share attitudes about things, which is scary. I worry, for instance, that though I know how great Coltrane is, I really can't stand listening to him, and I don't like Sarah Vaughn either -- and Vaquero feels the same way -- well did he do this to me or did I do this to him, or did we get there together?

I disliked hearing Coltrane's music, and that kind of post be-bop from the gitgo of hearing it, and that was long before I met Vaquero. I disliked Jefferson long before Vaquero started reading American history. I didn't know either Vaquero or I disliked Sarah Vaughn's style until we found this out about each other recently, in the course of a Roy Haydon marathon.

Love, C.

K. said...

"though I know how great Coltrane is, I really can't stand listening to him"

Nobody's perfect! If was dying and could listen to one more jazz piece, I'd choose Coltrane's "My Favorite Things."

The Gershwin Room is a cool place in the LOC. Also, I spent hours there with a comprehensive exhibit on Freud.

Foxessa said...

The LOC may be the greatest thing our nation possesses and created.

I hope you won't hold my Coltrane non-appreciation against me, K. :)

The new book may have been initiated today, the one that will get written while researching the Eddie Palmierie project, which is difficult and take forever.

Love, C.

K. said...

"I hope you won't hold my Coltrane non-appreciation against me, K. :)"

I thought about it, but there's just too much good in the relationship to let this get in the way. ;)

My father's first job out of library school was at the LOC.

K. said...

BTW, check out this guy at Occupied Territory Funk. I downloaded the CD and I like it. The sound is Miles In A Silent Way/Jack Johnson era with an afro beat.