Nancy Davenport | November 03, 2008
Picturing America presents forty images of paintings, sculptures, buildings, photographs, drawings, silver, quilts and baskets that reflect American art from pre-colonial to contemporary day. Last Spring ALA and NEH invited me to present ideas at the ALA Conference on how public libraries could use these images in programming. That started my personal journey with most of the images. Two of the images I know well as they are from the Library of Congress collections and by divine coincidence, I’ve been chief of both of the curatorial divisions, Rare Books and Special Collections and Prints and Photographs Divisions. Encountering them in this collection was like seeing old friends in a new setting.
The ALA presentation will be repeated in an online classroom on August 15 and I invite you to join me. To create the presentation I spent most non-working hours with the images for about three weeks. I studied style, period, place, medium, artists. I looked for similarities and differences in the art—I can tell you which ten images feature water, and I still wonder why only two of the images are art crafted by women. I read the fabulous resource guide for K–12 schools that accompanies the images and looked for even more in the images for public libraries to use. It must have worked. I’ll be designing the online guide for public libraries with the able assistance and eager support of my colleagues at the DC Public Library.
Each week—or even more often—I’ll blog on what we are doing. By October, we will have completed (and tested) programs for children, for teens, and for adults using the images as a focus or springboard.
Nancy Davenport is Interim Director of Library Services for the District of Columbia Public Library.