Library of Congress exhibit rolls into Rockford

From press release

A special Library of Congress traveling exhibition—mounted in a customized 18-wheel truck—will visit Rockford in December.

The exhibit, which is free, will be in Rockford Tuesday, Dec. 7, and Wednesday, Dec. 8, and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. It will be parked at Veterans Memorial Hall, 211 N. Main St.

The “Gateway to Knowledge” exhibition will bring high-quality facsimiles of many of the library’s top treasures and information about the millions of resources in the library’s unparalleled collections to small towns and rural communities across America—areas that may not be aware of their access to the wealth of information in this publicly-funded institution. Ultimately, the “Gateway to Knowledge” is expected to visit up to 60 sites in states across the Midwest and South over the next year.

The exhibition was the idea of Abby and Emily Rapoport, the granddaughters of Audre and Bernie Rapoport, founding members of the library’s private-sector support organization, The James Madison Council.

“As both a storehouse of world knowledge and primary resource for the U.S. Congress, the Library is energized by the prospects of the Abby and Emily Rapoport Traveling Exhibition playing an important role in sharing the national collection with the people to whom it belongs,” said Librarian of Congress’ James H. Billington.

The exhibit will include programming especially for teachers and students and provide relevant and engaging learning experiences for lifelong learners. The truck, which will be staffed and driven by two docents well versed in the library and its collections, will be parked at various schools, libraries, community centers and other public venues.

The library expands to three times its road width, and visitors will enter from a central staircase to find several areas of museum-style exhibits including a welcoming multimedia display and computer terminals displaying Library of Congress websites. The websites will include the main site,, the Center for the Book/Literacy Programs site, and sites pertaining to U.S. collections, exhibitions and a special site for use by teachers.

The exhibition will outline the history of the library, including Thomas Jefferson’s role in re-establishing the library when he provided his personal book collection to the nation after the burning of the U.S. Capitol in 1814. Jefferson’s organization of his books by categories of “Memory, Reason and Imagination” will inform the organization of the exhibition.

The exhibition will feature facsimiles of such treasures as the 1507 Waldseemuller Map (the first document to use the word “America”); the 1455 Gutenberg Bible; the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, in Thomas Jefferson’s hand with edits by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams; the 1962 drawings for the comic book that introduced Spider-Man to the world; the handwritten manuscript to jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton’s “Frog-i-More Rag”; and Walt Whitman’s poem “Leaves of Grass.”

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions.

From the Dec. 1-7, 2010 issue

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