Even though social media has expanded our capacity to interact with educators from around the world, often our Twitter and other social media environments still keep us fairly insulated from people outside our profession. I am occasionally reminded that I have something to offer those “outsiders” if I only remember to look.
Last week my husband and I and two friends spent a delightful afternoon and evening in the nearby Rocky Mountains with a friend whose family has owned a cabin in an idyllic setting for many decades. While we relaxed on the cabin’s deck overlooking a pond at sunset following a long hike, the conversation turned to what we had been reading, as it so often does. Our friend had been reading Isabel Wilkerson’s superb book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, for her book club. I replied that I had recently seen a Teaching with the Library of Congress blog post by Meg Steele on the topic of the epic exodus of African Americans from the South to the industrial cities of the North during the decades from 1917 to 1970.
Later in the week, I remembered to send the blog link to our friend: The Great Migration in Library of Congress Primary Sources. I suggested that she might like to share copies of the letters featured in the post with her book club members. The two letters had been written by prospective immigrants to Chicago from Macon, Georgia, and Mobile, Alabama. Unfortunately, their low resolution made for rather unsatisfactory prints.
Knowing as I do that the majority of employees at the Library of Congress find special delight in serving the public, I wrote to the Library’s Ask a Librarian service to find out if any higher resolution image might exist. Less than twenty-four hours later, I received the following response:
Dear Ms. Johnson,
This is in response to your inquiry to the Library’s Manuscript Division. As you are aware, this division is the custodian of the Carter G. Woodson papers. The collection is on-site and open to research.
This collection has been microfilmed, and for reasons of preservation, we require readers to use the microfilm edition of our collections when such editions are available. For your reference, I located the two letters in which you are interested on reel 7 of the collection. I also located the originals in box 10 of the collection and have attached complimentary PDF scans.
For further questions about higher quality reproductions, please contact the Library’s Duplication Services. It may take up to 4-6 weeks for copies to be made and prepayment is required. When making your request, please provide the collection name, box/reel number, and description of the material with your order. Further information about pricing and ordering is available online at:
I hope that this information is useful. Please let me know if you have questions or need further assistance.
Imagine that! Somebody at the Library of Congress went searching for the originals of the two letters, identified their location in case I could ever actually visit the Manuscript Division Reading Room, and made PDF scans just for me!
I think this little tale has two lessons for me:
- You never know what people outside the education profession might love to learn about the Library of Congress and its primary sources.
- Even when you think you’re an expert at all things Library of Congress related, there’s always someone who knows more and is willing to help.
Below are the images of the two letters sent to me in .pdf format, then edited to display in WordPress as .jpg images…it’s never easy!