Okay, so a couple of weeks ago, I made a plug for #ArchivesMonth in my post on defeating writer’s block.
Well, yesterday, I took a trip (for a class) to the Library of Congress in D.C. and through some individual research and a meeting or two with amazing librarians, was introduced to the behemoth that is our LoC. They have over 158 million different artifacts there, including rare books, original manuscripts, prints and photographs, and even a few sculptures. For the bibliophile or any lover of digging in to the random bits and bobs of archival life, this is really a dream come true.
About a year into my new life down in D.C. I went on the obligatory tour of the Capitol and then crossed through that cool little tunnel over into the Library of Congress. Then, I walked up the marble staircase and stared down into the ornate, main reading room.
At the base of each arch stands goddess-like statues of Wisdom, and below, grouped in bronzed pairs, the great minds of our time. To give you an idea, for literature, they pair Homer with Shakespeare.
I sat underneath these masters of intellect yesterday, no longer in the watching crowds from above, and opened my books, which were printed during the Gilded Age. One of the pamphlets had pages so frail, that tiny bits of paper chipped off, fluttering to the desk without much prompting. I sat and read and marveled at the cover designs ornate enough to fit in with my surroundings.
But the most exciting find for me was this manuscript of a theatrical adaptation written by the famous regionalist, Bret Harte of his well-loved and read story, “The Luck of Roaring Camp.”
This was hand written by the man whose off the cuff, satirical space-filler poem “Plain Language from Truthful James,” also called “The Heathen Chinee,” written for The Overland Monthly 1870 gave politicians the words to push the terrible Chinese Exclusion Act through Congress and support their backwards agendas. This was the man who inspired whole families to visit the West and explore Ameria’s wild backyard. And here, in front of me was his handwritten pages of a play which defied everything that made The “Luck of Roaring Camp” such a landmark story about the possibilities of non-normative families in all male mining communities. To those of you familiar with the story, take a look at the page and tell me… who in the world is Fortuna?!
Long story short, I was so impressed and inspired by the amazing works that came under my fingertips while at the LoC. For anyone in the area, I really recommend you spend a day, get your reader’s card and start doing some research. Like I said before, you could get a real story out of it!