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Posts Tagged ‘Library of Congress

“The conquest of learning is achieved through the knowledge of languages”*…

 

“When humanity loses a language, we also lose the potential for greater diversity in art, music, literature, and oral traditions,” says Bogre Udell. “Would Cervantes have written the same stories had he been forced to write in a language other than Spanish? Would the music of Beyoncé be the same in a language other than English?”

Between 1950 and 2010, 230 languages went extinct, according to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. Today, a third of the world’s languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers left. Every two weeks a language dies with its last speaker, 50 to 90 percent of them are predicted to disappear by the next century…

Every two weeks a language dies: Wikitongues wants to save them: “The Race to Save the World’s Disappearing Languages.”

And for a more in depth– and fascinating– discussion of the subject, listen to Mary Kay Magistad‘s conversation with Laura Welcher, the director of the Rosetta Project at The Long Now Foundation: “Why half the world’s languages may disappear in this century.”

* Roger Bacon

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As we contemplate conserving the capacity to converse, we might spare a thought for Archibald MacLeish; he died on this date in 1982.  A poet, dramatist, writer, and lawyer, he is probably best remembered for his poem  “Ars Poetica” and his play JB.  But MacLeish also served, from 1939 to 1944 as Librarian of Congress, where he oversaw the modernization of the institution and helped promote The Library– and libraries, the arts, and culture more generally– in public opinion.  Over his career, he won three Pulitzer Prizes, a Bollingen Prize, a National Book Award, a Tony Award (for JB), was named a Commandeur de la Legion d’honneur, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers; a librarian can bring you back the right one”*

 

Recently some folks at the New York Public Library discovered a box containing old reference questions from the 1940s to the 1980s.  They’re posting the questions to their Instagram account each Monday, noting that “we were Google before Google existed.”  Some of the examples include answers; others are…  well, probably unanswerable– but all are a reminder of the extraordinary value of the Library and its reference librarians.

People still use an updated version of the service, Ask NYPL; the Library reports that they receive about 1,700 reference questions a month via chat, email, and phone.

Read more at “Before Google, Here’s What New Yorkers Asked The NYPL.”

* Neil Gaiman

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As we keep it down, we might send bibliographic birthday greetings to Archibald MacLeish; he was born on this date in 1892.  A Pulitzer Prize-winning poet (Conquistador) and dramatist (JB), MacLeish became “America’s Reference Librarian”– the Librarian of Congress– in 1939.

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Who (really) said that?…

 

The three types of misattributed statement: an analysis

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As we quote with care, we might send learned birthday greetings to Daniel Joseph Boorstin; he was born on this date in 1914.  As a Rhodes Scholar, Boorstin took first-class honors in jurisprudence at Oxford and was admitted as a barrister to the Inner Temple in 1937.  Two years later, he returned to the US to teach history, first at Harvard, then at the University of Chicago.  He left Chicago in 1969 to become the director of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution; then, in 1975 moved on to become the Librarian of Congress, a post he held until 1987. He’s probably best-known for his three-volume history, The Americans, the third volume of which, The Americans: The Democratic Experience, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974.

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Written by LW

October 1, 2013 at 1:01 am

By the numbers…

The 2010 Census results are in.  The headlines:  men are living longer; marriage isn’t.

Some highlights…

Since the 2000 census, the number of men in the U.S. increased by 9.9 percent. Woman grew 9.5 percent.  There are more men than women under the age of 34, because “more boys than girls tend to be born.”
But above age 85, the number of women is double that of men. Female life expectancy is 80.8 years; male, 75.6 years.

Baby boomers are aging: The 45-plus group grew 25.6 percent since 2000, while the under-45 group only increased 1.4 percent.  The median national age was 37.2 years, from 35.3 in 2000.  Seven states now have a median age of over 40.  Maine is oldest, at 42.7; Utah is youngest, at 29.2.

The share of U.S. households with married couples fell to 48.4 percent, down from 51.7 percent in 2000– the first time the number dropped below 50 percent. In 1950, married couples made up 77 percent of households.

More descriptive demographics in this AP report and at the Census Bureau’s site.

As we do our best to age gracefully, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that Walt Disney’s edifying fable “Three Little Pigs” was released.  Winner of the 1934 Academy Award for Best Animated Short, “Three Little Pigs” was ranked #11 on the list of 50 Greatest Cartoons, and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Practical Pig, Fiddler Pig and Fifer Pig sing “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” (source)

What’s in a (sur)name?…

From National Geographic:

for larger, interactive version, click on the image above, or here

A new view of the United States based on the distribution of common last names shows centuries of history and echoes some of America’s great immigration sagas. To compile this data, geographers at University College London used phone directories to find the predominant surnames in each state. Software then identified the probable provenances of the 181 names that emerged.

Many of these names came from Great Britain, reflecting the long head start the British had over many other settlers. The low diversity of names in parts of the British Isles also had an impact. Williams, for example, was a common name among Welsh immigrants—and is still among the top names in many American states.

But that’s not the only factor. Slaves often took their owners’ names, so about one in five Americans now named Smith are African American. In addition, many newcomers’ names were anglicized to ease assimilation. The map’s scale matters too. “If we did a map of New York like this,” says project member James Cheshire, “the diversity would be phenomenal”—a testament to that city’s role as a once-and-present gateway to America.

 

As we ruminate on roots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1654 that the Portuguese issued the Capitulation Protocol, giving Jewish and Dutch settlers three months to leave Brazil.  Approximately 150 Jewish families of Portuguese descent fled the Brazilian city of Recife, in the state of Pernambuco.  By September, twenty-three of these refugees had established the first community of Jews in New Amsterdam (now, of course, New York City).

These “Sephardim” (Jews of Spanish-Portuguese extraction) had followed a tortured path. In December 1496, following Ferdinand and Isabella’s Spanish example, King Manuel I of Portugal had expelled all Jews from Portugal, driving many to flee to more tolerant Holland.  From there, some migrated to Pernambuco, a colony of the Dutch West India Company in modern-day Brazil. That community flourished until the Dutch eventually surrendered Pernambuco to the Portuguese– and the Sephardim were again forced to flee.

After being driven ashore in Jamaica by Spanish ships, twenty-three members of the community, along with a group of Dutch Calvinists, made their way to New Netherland (New York)– another colony run by the Dutch West India Company.  Even then, the trials were not past: Peter Stuyvesant governor of New Netherland, feared that the indigent newcomers would burden the colony; but when he motioned to eject the Jewish newcomers, the Company (many of the shareholders of which were Jewish) refused his petition… and the wanderers found a home.

Accuratissima Brasiliæ tabula
[Inset of Pernambuco.]
by Hendrik Hondius, 1630
(source: Library of Congress)

 

The Annals of Punctuation: Onerous Omissions…

In his blog Making Light, under the headline “The return of the final serial comma’s vital necessity,” Patrick Nielsen Hayden reproduces this clipping from the July 21 edition of the Los Angeles Times:

As Michael Quinion observes in World Wide Words, it’s reminiscent of the famous [but apocryphal] book dedication, “To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.”

As we recommit ourselves to curly clarity, we might recall that on this date in 1897 the first free-standing Library of Congress– the Jefferson Building– opened its doors to the public.  The Library had until then been housed in the Congressional Reading Room in the U.S. Capitol.

The Jefferson Building under construction (source)

 

 

 

There’s a throat in my frog…

Stephen Spielberg has called it “the Citizen Kane of animated films.” It has landed squarely in the Top Ten lists of both professional animators and (IMDB) fans.  It has been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress…  Written by Michael Maltese, directed by Chuck Jones, starring Michigan J. Frog, it’s One Froggy Evening:

As we marvel at the glorious madness of it all, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that Captain Stubing and his crew first sailed on ABC’s The Love Boat.  A hit for 9 seasons, the series helped popularize the “multiple parallel storyline” format, via which three separate stories set on the cruise ship ran intertwined through the hour.  (An unintended by-product: notorious continuity errors, most notably in social director Julie’s outfits during boarding and debarkation, which were often inconsistent between storylines.)

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