Friday, May 29, 2015

Inspiration from the Library of Congress

As a researcher, one of the places that inspire me is the Library of Congress (LOC).   The building itself is a national treasure, but the collections it holds are even more precious.   No matter what you are interested in, chances are that the Library of Congress has some material that relates to it.  It is a gold mine of primary source material for teachers, students, and writers. 

The LOC has a vast amount of material online, but let me give you an example of just one small slice of it.  Let’s take photographs from the Civil War.  When I look at this collection I see powerful, amazing images of people on both sides of the war.  While I’m interested in photos of the famous people like Lincoln, Lee and Grant, I’m even more fascinated by images of average soldiers who are often unidentified.  When I look at their faces, I wonder what they experienced and if they survived the war. 


Photos of soldiers are not the only type of images in their collection; many are of women and children.  This touching image of a young girl in a dark mourning dress holding a photo of her father, says a lot-silently.


This morning I found an unexpected collection at the LOC:  eyewitness drawings of Civil War scenes.  There are lots of battle scenes and landscapes, but the one that drew my eye was this sketch of a soldier.  It makes me wonder who this man was and why the artist sketched his image.  Was he a friend or brother?   Was he a hero or a deserter?

Images like these can teach students a lot about history.  And they can inspire both fiction and nonfiction writers. 

Carla Killough McClafferty


jan godown annino said...

Hi Carla,

Appreciations for this post.
By way of a tiny anecdote, our daughter created a LOC report in middle school & it was thru her that I learned of the origins with Thomas Jefferson's books & much historical trivia.
Since then our family has managed visits 2x & myself a 3rd time for research & just pure love of dwelling
in those beautiful halls.
I also like to listen to some of the folk music recordings at the LOC site.
We are so fortunate to have this resource.
And that pencil portrait from the Civil War that you found is haunting.

More Good Researching to You,

Carla Killough McClafferty said...

Jan, thanks for posting this comment. The LOC is an amazing resource in so many areas. And as you know the building itself is stunning. When I visited I was blown away with the size and majesty of it.