WASHINGTON – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.'s private library and Washington newspapers from as early as the 1860s are just some of the collections that Library of Congress junior fellows scoured and catalogued this summer.
Now in its fourth year,the junior fellows program includes 50 college undergraduate and graduate students who work in 15 of the library's divisions,exploring the special copyright and gift collections. They presented about 200 of their most interesting discoveries Tuesday.
James Billington,the librarian of Congress,said the program allows students to “find hidden treasures that were always there but hadn't really been discovered.”
“It's a reminder of the immense creativity of the American people,” he added.
Four fellows – Cassie Brand,21,Goucher College; Melanie Griffin,25,University of South Carolina; Peter Libero,23,University of Maryland; and Patrick Smith,22,University of Minnesota – sorted and catalogued about 5,000 books of Holmes' collection for two months and chose 2,200 to line the walls of two library meeting rooms bearing his name.
“At times,it was mind numbing,but we worked together,” Brand said. “There was definitely a sense of purpose that we had.”
The group,Brand said,broke up the monotony with dramatic readings from some of the books.
The collection,said Rare Book Cataloger Barbara Dash,is made up of a span of genres,including travel books,fiction and children's books.
“I think this is one of the premier American's libraries,” Dash said. “It's a treasure trove.”
The Oliver Wendell Holmes Collection rooms,part of a series of renovated rooms dubbed “Mahogany Row,” will probably open for public tours,Dash said.
Lauren Wallace,24,Texas Tech University,spent her summer digging through “dizzying amounts” of newspapers on microfilm to write essays outlining their content between the 1860s and 1920s as part of Chronicling America,a project sponsored by the Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize historic U.S. newspapers.
“It was really cool to see everything in its context,” Wallace said,describing how articles were placed and what was being advertised at the time.
During her research,Wallace and a library curator came across a previously unknown item in the library's collection: the April 21,1865,issue of the Weekly National Republican detailing President Lincoln's assassination and its aftermath.
The edition is marked with distinctive black rules to mourn Lincoln's death. The National Republican,which had daily editions and a weekly edition,was formed specifically to support Lincoln and the fledgling Republican Party.
“It just felt amazing to be looking at this,thinking it existed at the time,” Wallace said.
Other finds include a map of the proposed U.S. Capitol grounds by F.C. De Krafft from 1822 and a first edition of Scott Joplin's sheet music for the “Maple Leaf Rag.”