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Library of Congress exhibit comes to L’Anse Creuse North

by Candice Miller on December 17, 2010

It is so wonderful that our local students had this great opportunity to visit our Nation’s Capitol! Please read the article below for the full story.-Candice S. Miller                                 By Nicole Tuttle, Voice Reporter
Thirteen-year-old National Junior Honor Society student Kayla Rooker learned something new at L’Anse Creuse Middle School North on Dec. 15, but not in class.
Instead her lessons came in the school parking lot, where the “Gateway to Knowledge” exhibit was parked.
“It is amazing stuff that I had no clue about,” Rooker said. “It is amazing that Thomas Jefferson donated his book collection.”
The Library of Congress’ specially designed 18-wheel truck rolled into the L’Anse Creuse Middle School North parking lot in Macomb Township as a mini-museum, which allowed students and the public to view facsimiles of Library of Congress items.
The trailer expanded to three times its road width, and visitors entered from a central staircase to find areas of museum exhibits.
Exhibits included facsimiles of a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson’s hand with edits by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, the handwritten manuscript of jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton’s “Frog-i-More-Rag” and Walt Whiteman’s poem “Leaves of Grass.” In addition, students and the public had the opportunity to view the 1455 Gutenberg Bible, the 1962 drawings for the comic book introducing Spider Man, and the 1507 Waldseemuller Map, which was the first document to use the word America.
Abigail Van Gelder, a field manager with Experiential Tours and Equipment and a docent for the Library of Congress tour, said she has been with the tour since it opened in September and particularly favors the exhibit on the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.
“This event is especially exciting for us because the ‘Gateway to Knowledge’ was actually built here in Michigan,” Van Gelder said. “We left with it on Sept. 23 to take it to Washington, D.C. for the National Book Festival. We have been traveling ever since and now we are kind of bringing it back home for our first show in Michigan, which is very personally exciting for us…”
Although the free exhibit was open to the public when it arrived on Dec. 14, students in the L’Anse Creuse district did not tour it with their classes until Dec. 15, due to harsh winter weather that closed classes the day before. In addition, although it was originally planned for several of the district’s schools to visit the exhibit, the plan had to be scaled back to just those at L’Anse Creuse Middle School North and L’Anse Creuse High School North due to the snow day, according to L’Anse Creuse Director for Community Relations Michelle Irwin.
On Dec. 15, L’Anse Creuse Middle School North students in the student council and National Junior Honor Society attended a special ribbon cutting ceremony for the exhibit, along L’Anse Creuse Public Schools Superintendent Dr. DiAnne Pellerin, school board Vice President Kenneth Hoover, Treasurer Donald Hubler, and Karen Czernal, a district director representing U.S. Rep. Candice Miller. These students were the first in the school to see the exhibit.
“Of all the school districts in Macomb County, of all the school districts in Michigan, we are so fortunate in that Congresswoman Candice Miller thought of us when the opportunity came up to bring the Library of Congress Gateway to Knowledge exhibit to L’Anse Creuse Public Schools. This is a special treat,” Pellerin said. “It is a unique opportunity and we are very, very excited and also very grateful to Candice as well for thinking of us.”
The Library of Congress has been driving the rolling museum to cities across America since September. The truck is expected to visit up to 60 sites across the Midwest and South over the next year.
Czernal said that when Miller learned the exhibit would be traveling in the Midwest and South she requested a stop in Macomb County.
“Congresswoman Miller has had a long standing relationship with the Library of Congress during her tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, having served on the joint committee on the Library of Congress during her first term in office,” Czernal said. “Through that committee she became familiar with the vast resources that are available through the Library of Congress that could be so useful for school districts, for teachers and for students….”
The Library of Congress was founded in 1800 and is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution.
“It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further the human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. In this mobile exhibit, ‘The Gateway to Knowledge’ you will find the history of the library including Thomas Jefferson’s role in re-establishing the library when he provided his personal book collection to the nation after the burning of the U.S. Capitol in 1814,” Czernal said.
The exhibition was the brainchild of Abby and Emily Rapoport, the granddaughters of Audre and Bernie Rapoport, who were founding members of the library’s private-sector support organization, the James Madison Council.
“This is a unique opportunity for our students, for their learning experience to be enhanced and enriched,” Pellerin said. “We can’t take all of our students to Washington, D.C. This is an opportunity to bring a little bit of Washington, D.C. into L’Anse Creuse Public Schools. It is a unique opportunity to make history come alive and I think especially for young people, history can seem very, very abstract as you are learning it. This makes it real, makes it concrete, lends it credibility. And it is a testimony to the wonderful things that have happened in our nation.”

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