Being that the Holiday Season is upon us I have been watching a lot of A Christmas Story. Yes, I said a lot. For me it is the single best American movie, quite possibly, ever. There is humor, and love, and the cruelty of childhood/life all wrapped in a nice little Red Ryder BB gun package- it seems so simple but the depths of what the story covers are heartbreakingly beautiful, a pure American classic! Which is why when I found out that the Library of Congress just added the film to the National Film Registry I suddenly got really interested in this "Library of Congress?"
So, guys, the Library of Congress is awesome, did you know this? I mean, I am a library person in general but, after poking around the collection for a little while today I uncovered some pretty wondrous gems all collected for the preservation & advancement of America. Actually, the L of C began as a resource for Congress so that they could have access to information to perform their constitutional duties but as the collection expanded it seems that their mission statement did too: "...to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people." The fact that our own government desires for it's people to possess qualities of knowledge & creativity is a thing that I think we tend to overlook when arts funding cuts have swept the nation in recent days and so many other pressing disasters have taken priority...
As a film person I immediately managed to find a ton of early Edison recordings tucked away in the online archives available for your viewing pleasure- and in some cases, download! It also appears that long before the sneezing panda us Americans had a tradition of loving films of animals doing wacky things- immediately deeming a roller skating monkey worthy of precious film stock! There is also Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection which encompasses all types of information about early American folk music (including music, fieldnotes, transcriptions and tons of other resources) and, one of my personal favorites, the WPA poster archive (some of which are seen here!)- can you imagine a time when the American government supported artists this way?
Digging through the holdings of the Library of Congress made me value our national culture a little bit more. It made me respect our (and consider myself more part of an "our") creative endeavors of all kinds- from Richard Linklater's Slacker (another new addition to the L of C holdings!) to recordings of traditional Native American songs (<--this one is exquisite), this resource is a thing full of lives that we should all take advantage of, especially when our current media is zeroed in on the tragedies...It is what we build as a society that we should focus on, not what gets destroyed. So, if you ever have a moment, I suggest poking around the Library of Congress site to restore some of your faith in humanity, media, & the potential good that government can build and also to inspire yourself to build too. And, if you weren't already convinced of the awesome powers of the Library of Congress, check out this story about another recent aquisition: a series of one Dallas filmmaker who made 200 (!) versions of the same kidnapping caper comedy which he filmed in different communities using locals throughout southern and central areas of the U.S. bringing a home movie, community building feel to the masses through the wonder of film!