Not an Ostrich: And Other Images from America’s Library was the result of celebrated American photography curator Anne Wilkes Tucker’s excavation of nearly 500 images—out of a collection of over 14 million—permanently housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. While visitors to the exhibition never saw an ostrich, they did see the image titled “Not an Ostrich,” and a large selection of rare and handpicked works from the vaults of the world’s largest library, many never before available to the public.
The exhibition spanned across the history of photography—from daguerreotypes, the first photographic process, to contemporary digital prints. Iconic portraits of Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Cesar Chavez, and Elizabeth Taylor appeared alongside unusual images, such as, Stanley Kubrick’s “Strong Man’s Family” (1947), John Vachon’s “Ice Fishing, Minnesota” (1956), Susana Raab’s “Chicken in Love, Athens, OH” (2006) and Nina Berman’s “Flammable Faucet #4, Monroeton, PA” (2011). Vivid color portrayals of America, across time, were highlighted in juxtapositions of popular travel views from the late 19th century, created by the Detroit Publishing Company using the then-latest “photochrom” technology, on a screen next to striking contemporary scenes captured by Carol M. Highsmith.
America’s Library—a documentary film produced by the Annenberg Foundation—featuring interviews with exhibit photographers, historians, authors, political figures, and civil rights leaders, along with inside access to the Library of Congress, was also shown at the Space.
We also partnered with StoryCorps, an organization whose mission is to preserve and share stories to strengthen and build connections between people. Visitors were invited to step inside a gleaming silver Airstream trailer to interview a friend, family member, or record their own thoughts. Every story told was submitted for inclusion in the audio archives of the Library of Congress as an invaluable resource for future generations and can also be found here. A carefully curated General Store, featuring family-owned small-batch producers of unique American-made goods, hand selected from all across the country, allowed guests to bring a piece of authentic Americana home.
A nation’s story is a reflection of its collective—and selective—memory. Not an Ostrich: And Other Images from America’s Library invited visitors to experience our shared heritage.
Bringing your family? Download our Family Activity guide here or ask for one at the front desk.
Bella Lewitzky Dance Company, c. 1976Photo by: Dan Esgro
Fred Stewart II and Tyler Collins, 2012Photo by: Dawoud Bey
Migrant Mother, 1936Photo by: Dorothea Lange
Architectural hats, 1960Photo by: Tony Vaccaro Studio and the Monroe Gallery of Photography
Not an Ostrich: ‘Floradora Goose,’ 1930Photo by: Unknown
Brünnhilde, 1936Photo by: Unknown
Self-portrait, 1839Photo by: Robert Cornelius
Harriet Tubman, 1868 or 1869Photo by: Benjamin F. Powelson