Written by Justine Rothbart
The best two days of the year have arrived. What is it, you ask? No, it’s not my birthday. It’s not even Christmas. Need a hint? Fine I’ll tell you. It’s the Library of Congress National Book Festival! Ok, before you stop reading, let me explain why I always get so excited during this time of year. Yesterday and today the Library of Congress hosted their 13th annual National Book Festival on the National Mall. This is where passionate authors congregate to discuss the process of writing their new book and their devotion to the topic. This year some of the topics included: families coping with disabled children, Mexican home cooking, homosexuality and religion, and learning how to motivate others by selling. The best part of the National Book Festival is listening to an author, unknown to you, and becoming completely engrossed in their life and their story. It is invigorating leaving the National Book Festival interested in topics you would have never even thought twice about.
Ok, now that you know the background of the National Book Festival (and are counting down the days ’till next year’s event), I’m writing today to talk about the new trends I learned while attending the National Book Festival. No, I did not learn new fashion trends (although, I did see a family sporting some fashionable, yet very practical ponchos). Anyways, I’m getting off topic. This is the place where I realized that cupcakes are out (we knew that for awhile) and archives are in.
Archives? Seriously? Yes, archives. At the National Book Festival yesterday, it seemed as if almost every speaker used the word “archives” during their presentation. It was used not only at the “History & Biography” tent, but at the “Contemporary Life” tent too. Is it just becoming the new buzzword? Or is the general public finally realizing the importance and becoming interested in archives? I think it is a combination of both.
The first time I noticed it was at the beginning of the first session. Linda Ronstadt was about to come on stage to discuss her new book which highlights her forty-five year singing career. Before the session began, the moderator stated the standard announcement from the Library of Congress, “This session is being filmed for the Library of Congress’ website and archives.” Most people would have not been as excited as me to hear this, but as a graduate student studying Cultural Heritage Information Management, this really got me excited. I was not only excited about the Library of Congress saving this for posterity, but I was excited that it was announced for everyone to hear. Announcing little things like this is just the beginning to archives advocacy. I hope every time people heard that statement, they thought, “Wow, that’s great that the Library of Congress is saving this in their archives.” Maybe I’m being too optimistic. They probably only thought, “Ok, when is the main act coming on stage?”
After listening to Linda Ronstadt talk about her musical career, I headed over to the “History & Biography” tent. Film historian, Christel Schmidt, discussed not only the subject of her new book, Mary Pickford: Queen of Movies, she also discussed researching in film archives to write this book on the famous silent movie actress. Listening to Christel Schmidt talk about archives just reinforces this trend of the general public wanting to know more about the behind the scenes process.
I jumped from the silent movie era back into 2013 when I went to the “Contemporary Life” tent again. This time I was there to listen to Bonnie Benwick discuss The Washington Post Cookbook: Readers’ Favorite Recipes. Ok, you might think, how can cooking be related to archives? Let me tell you. Bonnie Benwick discussed that in order to find the content for this new book, the Washington Post staff not only looked back in the newspaper’s archives, but they contacted readers to look back in their own personal archives. This is just another example of how archival items can be used today for “Contemporary Life” purposes.
The votes are in. The people have spoken. Archives has been named the new trend of 2013. I only hope, that this is not a trend which will quickly disappear as fast as slap bracelets. In fact, I hope this is not a trend at all, but an awakening.