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Library of Congress Receives Historic Recordings

'HistoryMakers' Archives Relocate

Stacy M. Brown | 7/30/2014, 3 p.m.
The U.S. Library of Congress in Southeast acquired in June the "HistoryMakers" video archive collection, which contains thousands of hours ...
The Reading Room at the Library of Congress in Southeast D.C. (Courtesy photo)

The collection includes 9,000 hours of content with 14,000 analog tapes, 3,000 DVDs, 6,000 born-digital files, 70,000 paper documents and digital files and more than 30,000 digital photographs.

“The ‘HistoryMakers’ are the single largest archival project of its kind since the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) initiative to document the experiences of former slaves in the 1930s,” Richardson said. 

While the headquarters for much of the “HistoryMakers” work will remain in Chicago, Richardson said the deal with the Library of Congress, arguably the most prestigious repository in the world, will allow the archives to join the WPA’s Slave Narratives at the library’s Culpeper, Virginia, Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in a state-of-the-art facility that’s already home to more than 7 million collectible items.

The collection will also share a home where the Library of Congress acquires, preserves, and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of television programs, film dating back to the 1890s and radio broadcasts and sound recordings from as far back as the 1880s.

“This relationship with the Library of Congress represents a momentous occasion for our organization” Richardson said. “With the Library of Congress serving as our permanent repository, we are assured of its preservation and safekeeping for generations to come.”

The oldest federal cultural institution which serves as the research arm of Congress, the library has millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts.

In its 2013 fiscal year, officials at the Library of Congress responded to more than 636,000 congressional reference requests and delivered approximately 23,000 volumes from the library’s collections to members of Congress.

More than 23.5 million books have been catalogued during 2013 in the library’s classification system while more than 12.3 million books, monographs and serials, bound newspapers, pamphlets, technical reports and other printed material have also been logged there.

Last year, officials said the library welcomed nearly 1.6 million visitors to its buildings and they recorded more than 84 million visits and 519 million page views on its website.

The “HistoryMakers” archive provides first-person accounts of both well-known and unsung African Americans, detailing their hopes, dreams and accomplishments often in the face of adversity, said James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress.

Billington said the culturally important collection counts as a rich and diverse resource for scholars, teachers, students and documentarians seeking a more complete record of America’s history and its people.

The various videos included in the collection are grouped in 15 different subject areas ranging from science, politics and the military to sports, music and entertainment.

For example, the “ScienceMakers,” category features 211 top black scientists with about 6 percent of the interviews in the fields of chemistry, engineering, physics, biology, electronics, anthropology, aerospace, mathematics and genetics.

Other categories include, “ArtMakers,” “BusinessMakers,” “CivicMakers,” “EntertainmentMakers,” “MediaMakers,” and, “PoliticalMakers.”

​“It was an incredible honor to be selected as a ‘HistoryMaker,’” said Dr. E. Faye Williams, an attorney and civil rights activist.  

“When I think of all the great things so many before me did to make my life better, I was humbled to have someone find that I have done something worthy of recognition in our community,” Williams said. “It made me want to work harder to be a mentor to as many young people as possible. I never turn down a request from interns to gain experience in our office. I never turn down a request to help anyone who needs help if what they are asking is within my control.”