Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The creation of myth

 Last night, on my way home from the office, my brain buzzing from sifting through a regulation on procurement, I saw a backlit advertisement in the DC Metro proclaiming a display of Gaugin’s famous works at the National Gallery of Art. For a fleeting moment, I thought to myself, “…that piece isn’t in the Met’s collection of Gaugin…” until, that is, I realized with a sudden shock that I wasn’t in New York. To purloin a phrase that has been recently circulating the interwebiverse relating to census counts and economic pressures – this was a ‘thud’ moment. But, there were boxes yet unfilled on the crossword, e-mails awaiting responses, media messages to be crafted….

Two weekends ago, my parents arrived in town to pass a few days with me. We saw the Thomas Jefferson building of the Library of Congress which was truly impressive. I will have to create an entirely different post with a series of photos. Much as the opening statement to this entry, I was overwhelmed suddenly with the thought that I was not at home, having personally been inside of literally dozens of venues similarly adorned there, and began to feel on edge. The saving grace of the building’s environs was the fact that I heard every one of the half dozen docents leading tours around the building repeat the same refrain: “…he [Jefferson] wanted the building to be an intersection of art, learning, and culture.” So impressive was the display that I would quite well be inspired to create the same type of surrounding in my own home, once I have one, that is. Of course, I’m not likely to be gifted with several acres of Federal land and monies for the project, but a guy can dream, no?

Interestingly, on the second floor of the library was a Mesoamerican exhibit entitled “Exploring the Americas.” The rooms contained several pieces I’d never been able to see before, an unexpected pleasure. The collection’s variety of books spanned crucial recompilations of original drawings of petroglyphs, interpretations of calendar stones, depictions of Aztec, Inca, and Mayans from the origination of the ethnography field, and chronicles of the Europeans’ initial interactions with the New World.

Jefferson’s personal collection, on display on the opposite side of the library from the Americas exhibit, was a testament to the breadth of knowledge of a president and fellow bibliophile. If nothing else, it helped to embolden my own fascination for books, despite having to divest myself of the several copies I had been warehousing of former teacher’s editions of textbooks, and half dozen repetitions of novels that served little other purpose than to possess extra copies. Once this fellowship is over, and I triumphantly return to New York, I shall endeavor to install myself in a viable location, and further develop my extensive library. One of us must be responsible for the protection of knowledge.

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