7/26/11 – Yesterday was pretty full and today we needed to make some miles. The tiny library in Brownsville, PA had massive columns in front that had been recycled from a bank when the bank went under during the Great Depression. Despite how bad things were here now the librarian said that the library had survived the Depression and she vowed that her library wasn’t going to close now. The Carnegie library in Connellsville, PA was still impressive despite its faded condition. We proceeded along one of the great drives of the trip through southern Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and into Maryland and Virginia. We were in the cradle of the Civil War. We ended our long drive in the beautiful farm country around Harpers Ferry, WV. Our last library of the day was in Shepherdstown, WV and it was one of the best so far. It is a unique small building nestled between two taller brick buildings and two streets. We found out later that it had been a market that opened up on to the streets. We drove through Harpers Ferry and felt the full impact of the Civil War in this historically important small town.
7/27/11 – Shepherstown was so interesting that we went back again to photograph in the morning light. We also met the delightful librarians who told us the story of this special place. So much history has occurred in this area. The National Historic Park in nearby Antietum was a moving memorial to the devastation of that Civil War battle. President Lincoln used the partial success of this battle to declare the Empancipation Proclamation and to prevent England from recognizing the Confederacy. We also stopped at another Civil War battle site in Sharpsburg. I photographed the library there which had several war memorials on the front lawn. Again, libraries function as a center for memory including the memory of fallen soliders from the past and present. We drove to Winchester, VA to photograph the Handley Regional Library. It is a stunning piece of architecture built by a Confederate sympathizer after the war. I was surprised to see several portraits of Confederate heroes in the library and wondered what the African American patrons thought when they saw these paintings on the walls. After the town of Leesburg, VA we feel ourselves getting sucked into the vortex of Washington, DC. In some ways our trip ended as we drove to the Capitol Mall to pick up our friend Jeff Gates and his daughter Lilly. Although we still have many more days left on our trip there was a sense of completion having crossed the country and arriving at our nation’s Capitol.
7/28/11 – We stayed with Jeff , his wife Susie and their other daughter Eve outside of Washington. Today was significant because I showed by photographs to Verna Curtis who is a curator at the Library of Congress. When I arrived with Walker for my appointment, Verna had included several other important people connected to the Prints and Photographs Division. It felt excellent to show this older work but I kept thinking of the new work produced over the last five weeks during this library road trip. We have photographed over 200 libraries in 18 states driving 8,700 miles so far. After the meeting Verna Curtis took us on a quick tour of the Library of Congress. I was in awe. Standing in our national library I felt proud of our nation-wide system of public libraries. I felt this project is a small step at honoring that system. We photographed in the spectacular lobby of the Library of Congress. Walker and I left Capitol Hill and to photograph two branch libraries in DC. The Anacostia library is in a rough neighborhood but is new and is
a green library. The Shaw branch library is also new and, as we have seen across the country, filled with people.