Friday, September 1, 2017

2017 National Book Festival

The 17th annual National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, September 2, 2017, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The festival is free and open to the public.

More than 100 authors, poets, and illustrators will be making presentations throughout the day in the theme-based pavilions for Children, Teens, Books to Movies, Contemporary Life, Fiction, Food & Home, Graphic Novels, History & Biography, International, Poetry & Prose, and Science. Speakers include such writers as David McCullough, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Dava Sobel, Ibram X. Kendi, Elizabeth Strout, Jesmyn Ward, Margot Lee Shetterly, and many others. 

Further information, including a schedule of events and a map of the festival grounds, can be found at the festival website. Mobile apps are also available for the Festival. This year's poster was designed by Roz Chast; a gallery of all Festival posters from 2001 to 2017 can be viewed here

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Petition to Congress for the Censure of the President

The following petition has garnered over 32,000 signatures to date. As noted in the press release announcing the petition, "the censure of Presidents and members of Congress has been sought and imposed at least 40 times" in the past. After further signatures are gathered in the coming weeks, it is planned to present the petition to every member of the Senate and House of Representatives for "appropriate action." Further information can be found at the petition website and at the petition webpage at Change.org. (Note also that on July 12, 2017, U.S. Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) submitted an article of impeachment (H. Res. 438) to the House Committee on the Judiciary.) 

Petition to the Congress of the United States for the Redress of Grievances under the First Amendment Requesting That President Trump Be Censured 

The undersigned, exercising their inalienable right, deriving from the Magna Carta and enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” do hereby request of each member of the United States Senate and House of Representatives that the Senate and House, separately or jointly, adopt a resolution censuring President Donald J. Trump for the misconduct described below.

The undersigned have concluded, after due deliberation, that President Donald J. Trump, from the day he took office on January 20, 2017 as the forty-fifth President, to the present, has betrayed his obligations to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” and to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" by engaging in the following unlawful conduct, and conduct that contravenes, betrays, disparages and denigrates the values enshrined in the Constitution, and demeans the office of President. Far from embracing our constitutional rights and obligations, President Trump has demonstrated that he lacks allegiance to, respect for, or even knowledge of, those rights and obligations.

1. President Trump acted improperly by
       (i) firing Director James Comey of the FBI for refusing to terminate the FBI’s investigation into charges that the Russian Government had sought to influence the outcome of the November 2016 presidential election, and then offering contradictory explanations of the reasons for that firing, one or more of which explanations must have been false.
       (ii) interfering in the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn, who had been National Security Advisor until his recent firing by the President, by asking FBI Director Comey to terminate that investigation.
       (iii) disclosing highly classified intelligence information to Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergei. Kislyak, in a private meeting in the Oval Office on May 10, 2017.
       (iv) abusing the powers of his office and the integrity and independence of the Justice Department by admonishing Attorney General Sessions for having recused himself from involvement in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

2. President Trump has disgraced his office by repeatedly making false statements publicly in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001 which provides, in relevant part, that "...whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully...makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation...shall be fined,...imprisoned not more than 5 years...or both.
       (i) President Trump asserted on March 4, 2017 that his predecessor, then President Barack Obama, had tapped his phone at Trump Tower in New York City. Neither President Trump nor anyone else has offered any evidence to support this claim, which must, therefore, be concluded to have been false.

3. President Trump has ownership, leasehold, licensing or other interests in numerous hotels in Washington, D.C., elsewhere in the United States and abroad in which individuals holding office in foreign governments have stayed and/or enjoyed meals and entertainment, and has thereby violated Article 1, Section 10 (the “Emoluments Clause”) of the United States Constitution. Further, President Trump continues to hold and benefit from his many assets, both foreign and domestic, receiving profits and benefits, such as trademarks, from foreign powers, which constitute wrongfully received emoluments. By engaging in those violations, President Trump has also violated his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

4. President Trump has disparaged, demeaned and ridiculed women, including statements referring to the lack of intelligence and the physical appearance of a television commentator. Such conduct betrays our Nation’s values and undermines the hard-fought equality of women in our Nation.

5. By announcing on May 31, 2017 that the United States is withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords signed by 195 nations, President Trump has acted recklessly, without justification and contrary to the wishes of the great majority of the American people, and has thereby jeopardized the residents of our country and their descendants.

6. President Trump has refused, and made clear that he will continue to refuse, to disclose his previously filed or future federal income tax returns in violation of a long-standing tradition of disclosure honored by former Presidents. That refusal has deprived and will deprive Congress and the American people of information necessary to determine
       (i) whether, and if so, the extent to which, President Trump violated the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution;
       (ii) the President’s past, continuing and future relations with foreign individuals and entities; and
       (iii) the personal impact on President Trump of any proposed amendments to the Internal Revenue Code.

7. From the moment of his inaugural address to date, President Trump has publicly and repeatedly disparaged and defamed his predecessor as President, members of Congress, the Judiciary, Government officials, political opponents, members of the press, and other individuals in a crude, and insulting manner. In addition, he has called into question the legitimacy of the other equal branches of our government, so as to undermine seriously these institutions in the eyes of our people and the world. Thus he has made us fear that our nation is headed in the direction of becoming an authoritarian dictatorship.

8. In June, 2016, Donald Trump’s agents, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, willfully, knowingly, and improperly, sought to obtain from Russian government sources, damaging information regarding Hillary Clinton for the purpose of aiding Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. On July 13, 2017 President Trump defended the foregoing improper actions.

WHEREFORE, the undersigned respectfully request that President Donald J. Trump be censured for the acts, statements and conduct specified above.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Sussex Declaration of Independence


The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, but there has long been disagreement on which day (or days) it was actually signed. Although the evidence is not clear-cut, some historians consider August 2 rather than July 4 to be the day the document was signed by all (or most) of the delegates to the Second Congressional Congress. What is not in dispute, however, is that ultimately 56 signatures were affixed, and that these are grouped by state, with the exception of Congress President John Hancock, whose iconic signature appears at the head of the others. This founding document was engrossed on parchment and is permanently housed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C.

The original Declaration (also known as the Matlack Declaration) is now complemented by the Sussex Declaration, which is the only other known manuscript copy of the Declaration on parchment from the late 1700s. Danielle Allen and Emily Sneff, researchers at Harvard's Declaration Resources Project, first came across the document in August 2015; it derives its moniker from the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester, U.K., the repository where it is located.

The Sussex copy is the same size as the Matlack Declaration, but is oriented horizontally. More notably, some of the signers' names are misspelled, and the names are not grouped by states. Allen and Sneff believe that James Wilson, a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, is the person who likely commissioned the Sussex Declaration. They discuss many of their findings in Discovering the Sussex Declaration, a lecture delivered at the National Archives on July 6, 2017.

Monday, July 31, 2017

In Case You Missed It . . . H. Res. 438


115th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. RES. 438

Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 12, 2017
Mr. Sherman (for himself and Mr. Al Green of Texas) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

RESOLUTION
Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Resolved, That Donald John Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors and that the following article of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate:
Article of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States of America in the name of itself and of the people of the United States of America, against Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, in maintenance and support of its impeachment against him for high crimes and misdemeanors.
ARTICLE I
In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald John Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice during a Federal investigation in that:
Knowing that Federal law enforcement authorities were investigating possible criminal law violations of his former National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn and knowing that Federal law enforcement authorities were conducting one or more investigations into Russian state interference in the 2016 campaign for President of the United States, and that such investigation(s) included the conduct of his campaign personnel and associates acting on behalf of the campaign, to include the possible collusion by those individuals with the Russian government, Donald John Trump sought to use his authority to hinder and cause the termination of such investigation(s) including through threatening, and then terminating, James Comey, who was until such termination the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The pattern of behavior leading to the conclusion that he sought to cause the hindrance or termination of said investigation(s) include the following:
(1) Requesting that the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation curtail the investigation of the activities of General Michael Flynn under circumstances wherein it appeared that Director Comey might be terminated if he failed to adhere to such request.
(2) Making a determination to terminate the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and only thereafter requesting that the Deputy Attorney General provide him with a memorandum detailing inadequacies in the Director’s performance of his duties.
(3) Despite offering differing rationales for the termination of the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, admitted subsequently that the main reason for the termination was that the Director would not close or alter the investigation of matters related to the involvement of Russia in the 2016 campaign for President of the United States.
(4) Stated that, once he had terminated the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the pressure of said investigation had been significantly reduced.
In all of this, Donald John Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.
Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Kiva Surpasses $1 Billion in Microloans Worldwide


Founded in 2005 as a non-profit organization to alleviate poverty through microloans to small entrepreneurs worldwide, Kiva has just surpassed $1 billion in total funds lent to some 2.5 million entrepreneurs in over 80 countries. Having established a global network of microfinance field partners, Kiva currently has a repayment rate of 97% across all loans.

To learn more about how Kiva works and its history, visit its website and consider joining the effort to fund entrepreneurs around the world. To date, the Common Curator has made over 180 microloans for projects in 82 countries.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Saving Brinton: The World Premiere

Saving Brinton is a documentary that will have its world premiere at the AFI DOCS film festival on June 17, 2017. The film recounts the discovery by retired history teacher Mike Zahs of some of the earliest films ever made that were shown in small communities by William Franklin Brinton, the "barnstorming movie man" who toured Iowa, Texas, and the Midwest from around 1895 to 1910.

Zahs acquired some 35,000 feet of footage at an auction in 1981, and only thereafter realized the rarity of his acquisitions, which include works by such production companies as Edison, Méliés, Lumiere, and Pathé. Zahs eventually enlisted the help of staff at the Library of Congress and the University of Iowa to preserve and digitize what in some cases was the only known surviving copy of a film title. Saving Brinton was directed by Tommy Haines and Andrew Sherburne, and further information can be found at the documentary's website.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture in Literature

Awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, Bob Dylan recorded his Nobel Lecture, with piano accompaniment, on June 4, 2017 in Los Angeles. He emphasizes the role literature has played in his music, and describes in particular the influence of three classic works: Moby-Dick, or, The Whale; All Quiet on the Western Front; and The Odyssey. A full transcript of the Lecture is available on the Nobel Prize website.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Celebrating the JFK Centennial: A Strategy of Peace

John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the U.S., was born 100 years ago today on May 29, 1917. The video above is an excerpt from Kennedy's speech, "A Strategy of Peace," delivered at American University in Washington, D.C. on June 10, 1963 [transcript]. In his address, Kennedy exhorts:
Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable--that mankind is doomed--that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.
We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade--therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable--and we believe they can do it again. 
Kennedy further observes:
So, let us not be blind to our differences--but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal. 
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum offers countless resources related to Kennedy's life and legacy. The JFK Centennial website provides additional information on events and programming related to the 100th anniversary of Kennedy's birth.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

Entries are now being accepted for the 2017 National Collegiate Book Collecting ContestBegun in 2005 by the Fine Books & Collections magazine for student bibliophiles, the competition is now jointly sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, as well as the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress. 

number of contests are currently held at colleges and universities around the U.S., with Swarthmore College's competition being the first in the 1920s. College-level students from all educational institutions, however, are encouraged to participate. Entries for this year's competition are due by May 31, 2017. Contest rules and further information are available at the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America website. Winners of the last several years can be viewed here: 2016, 2015, 2014201320122011, and 2010.

Monday, May 1, 2017

MayDay 2017: Saving Our Heritage

Since 2006, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) has designated May 1st as MayDay, or a day of action for both individuals and organizations such as archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies to improve their capacities to deal with emergencies that can threaten or destroy historical collections. The ravages of natural disasters such as the tornadoes and hurricanes of recent years are just some of the physical risks facing cultural heritage institutions.

Although the landmark study, A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America's Collections (2005), systematically documented that most institutions lack an adequate disaster preparedness plan, the SAA has worked to mitigate these deficiencies. The SAA web site provides recommendations for MayDay activities, as well as a compilation of resources, including technical literature and tools, disaster plan templates and examples, tutorials and courses, bibliographies, and other resources.

In recent years, the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) has undergone severe cuts to both collections and services, which are documented in detail in a recent White Paper produced by the Save Iowa History Alliance. Leading historians on both a state and national level have addressed their concerns directly to Governor Branstad and to Mary Cownie, Director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the SHSI.

Further details on these efforts, as well as contact information for key decision-makers, is available in the previous Common Curator posts: Save Iowa History and Save Iowa History 3. The complete White Paper on the State Historical of Iowa can be downloaded as a PDF.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Fight for Libraries; Fight for Museums; Save the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS)


For this year's National Library Week (April 9-15, 2017), the American Library Association (ALA) has designated April 13 as Take Action for Libraries Day as part of an ongoing advocacy campaign to counter the Administration's proposed draconian budget cuts, which include the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the leading federal agency supporting the work of museums and libraries nationwide.

Specifically, the ALA is calling on Congress to preserve funding levels for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), as well as the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program. For those wishing to engage directly in the effort to support libraries and museums of all types, the ALA offers an array of advocacy resources online.

The stated mission of the IMLS is "to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement," by providing "leadership through research, policy making, and grant making." The Common Curator can attest firsthand to the vital importance of the IMLS mission, having worked on two major IMLS digitization grants to help create two substantial and significant digital collections that are freely accessible online.

As Project Director, the Common Curator received a $120,300 grant to build the North Carolina History of Health Digital Collection, which makes available some 350,000 pages of core health-related journal literature from 1849 to the present. Earlier, as Digital Production Editor & Metadata Coordinator, he helped build American Journeys: A Digital Library and Learning Center, which features eyewitness accounts of early American exploration and settlement from around 1500 to 1850. It, too, has been heavily utilized since its launch, attracting hundreds of thousands of users annually.

It is estimated there are 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums in the U.S. Moreover, it is estimated that 169 million people over 14 are library users (69% of the population), while 148 million people over 18 visit a museum annually. Clearly, there is a critical demand and need for memory institutions, which is consistent with the IMLS vision, namely, "A democratic society where communities and individuals thrive with broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage, and lifelong learning."

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence . . . MLK, Jr. after Fifty Years



Fifty years ago on April 4, 1967 (exactly one year before his assassination), Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., delivered a major speech at Riverside Church in New York City which articulated his reasoning for his opposition to the Vietnam War, and how the conflict was intertwined with racism and other pressing social issues facing the nation. Entitled "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence," King traces the evolution of his thought on the war, and argues for a "radical revolution of values," stating:
. . . [W]e must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Towards the conclusion of his speech, King posits a fundamental question:
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. 
Wise words still today, fifty years hence. The full transcript of King's speech can be read here; the YouTube video above contains audio only.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Fool's Nostalgia


For earlier April 1st posts, see The Origin of April Fool's Day and April Is the Foolest Month, which describes various spaghetti harvests around the world.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

From "Over the Rainbow" to "Straight Outta Compton," 25 New Selections Named to National Recording Registry

In the fifteenth year of the National Recording Registry, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has just announced 25 sound recordings as the official entries for 2016, stating: "This year's exciting list gives us a full range of sound experiences. These sounds of the past enrich our understanding of the nation's cultural history and our history in general."

Under the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, selected recordings must be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and at least ten years old.

Spanning the years 1888-1997, the selections for 2016 are as follows:
  1. The 1888 London cylinder recordings of Col. George Gouraud (1888)
  2. Lift Every Voice and Sing (singles)Manhattan Harmony Four (1923); Melba Moore and Friends (1990)
  3. Puttin’ on the Ritz (single)Harry Richman (1929)
  4. Over the Rainbow (single)Judy Garland (1939)
  5. I’ll Fly Away (single)The Chuck Wagon Gang (1948)
  6. Hound Dog (single)Big Mama Thornton (1953)
  7. Saxophone ColossusSonny Rollins (1956)
  8. The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants at the Polo Groundsannounced by Vin Scully (September 8, 1957)
  9. Gunfighter Ballads and Trail SongsMarty Robbins  (1959)
  10. The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes MontgomeryWes Montgomery (1960)
  11. People (single)Barbra Streisand (1964)
  12. In the Midnight Hour (single)Wilson Pickett (1965)
  13. Amazing Grace (single)Judy Collins (1970)
  14. American Pie (single)Don McLean (1971)
  15. All Things Consideredfirst broadcast (May 3, 1971)
  16. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from MarsDavid Bowie (1972)
  17. The Wizoriginal cast album (1975)
  18. Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975)Eagles (1976)
  19. Scott Joplin’s TreemonishaGunter Schuller, arr. (1976) 
  20. Wanted: Live in Concert—Richard Pryor (1978)      
  21. We Are Family (single)—Sister Sledge (1979)
  22. Remain in LightTalking Heads (1980)
  23. Straight Outta ComptonN.W.A (1988)
  24. Rachmaninoff’s Vespers (All-Night Vigil)Robert Shaw Festival Singers (1990)
  25. SignaturesRenée Fleming (1997)
The full National Recording Registry currently numbers 475 recordings, and can be viewed here. The Registry solicits nominations annually for inclusion on the registry; further information on the criteria and procedures for making nominations for 2017 is available at the Registry website

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chuck B. Goode, Chuck B. Gone: Rock in Peace

Rock & Roll legend Chuck Berry [1926-2017] died March 18th at age 90. Johnny B. Goode, one of his many pioneering songs (and featured above in a live performance), was recorded at Chess Studios on January 6, 1958 and released as a single a few months later on March 31st.