WASHINGTON – Presentations about Civil War photographs,1870s tobacco and liquor advertisements and a former congressman's professional football helmet culminated a summer's effort of research and diligence by 41 undergraduate and graduate students.
The Library of Congress 2010 junior fellows presented their research into more than 100 rare and historical items Thursday as a final presentation of their summer internships. The students have been working in different divisions in the library since June examining and cataloging thousands of library artifacts.
Fellow Matthew R. Gross,a recent graduate of Gettysburg College,investigated about 700 Civil War photos recently donated by the Liljenquist family. Gross,a Civil War minor,and his partner,Elizabeth Lewin,a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago,interviewed the family this summer about its historical connection with the war and the collection.
“I've always loved the Civil War. I like to be able to be close to history and to be able to get a sense of what it was like,” Gross said. “This has really strengthened my desire to study some of the real base of the Civil War – the men who were on the front lines,in the rank and file.”
Gross and Lewin researched the personal stories behind the photographs,many of which were portraits of Union and Confederate soldiers. Gross said he was impressed with the emotion in a photo of a young girl holding a portrait of a man in soldier's clothing. The girl was wearing “mourning attire,” and the man in the photo is believed to be her deceased father.
Nearly 400 of the photos will go on display in April at the library. Gross said he is proud that his contributions will be available to the public. He said the summer program offered him new insights about museum administration,and he hopes to carry his newly acquired skills with him as he enters the Cooperstown Graduate Program in New York in the fall.
“We worked with each and every one of these [photos] in cooperation with the curator. We got to do the authentic work that anybody in the library who is a full-time employee would get to do,” Gross said. “There's only one Library of Congress,and I'm very honored to have the privilege to work here this summer.”
Fellow JoAnna Roman,a 2009 graduate of Indiana University,worked with the library's manuscript division and said it was an unparalleled work experience.
“My favorite part about this experience has been the opportunity to be in the library and really experience the width and depth of the institution and all the work that it does,” Roman said.
She analyzed hundreds of boxes filled with memorabilia of former professional football player and congressman Jack Kemp,who died in May 2009. Kemp was a quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and was known to show off his football helmet on his office desk on Capitol Hill. The helmet,photographs and documents were showcased at the presentation.
“It's a very diverse collection,” Roman said. “Jack Kemp was a very multi-dimensional individual. So,it really showed us a lot about him as a person.”
Fellows Erin Terwilliger,University of Maryland,Baltimore County; Mark Zelesky,Louisiana State University; Megan Martino,South Carolina State University; and Terri Abney,Clark Atlanta University; entertained visitors with a theatrical and musical presentation they arranged using sheet music they found in the library's general collection.
Terwilliger said the group's performance,”Sherman's March to the Sea,” is a piece from the “Communist Collection,” nicknamed for the period of the1940s and 1960s when it was created. She said it is not uncommon for people to be unaware of the many interesting items housed in the library.
“There are so many rich artifacts out there with so much history that sometimes are unknown until someone gives them the attention,” Terwilliger said.
Deanna Marcum,associate librarian for library services,said she was impressed with the junior fellows' efforts.
“These talented college students have brought with them energy,intellect and commitment toward shedding new light on many thousands of collections that are at the Library of Congress,” she said.
The library received more than 600 applications for the 2010 summer program. The 41 interns were chosen based on experience and interviews conducted by museum curators and library specialists. Marcum encouraged visitors to spend time with each fellow.
“Talk to the fellows about the experience they've had here. Their stories are as inspirational as the materials themselves,” she said.