Ask A Librarian

US Congress exhibit opens April 2

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
March 28th, 2018

Photograph of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressing a joint meeting of Congress, December 26, 1941, from the Senator Harley Martin Kilgore papers, WVRHC

The United States Congress is the branch of the federal government closest to the people, where representatives and their constituents most directly engage over the issues of the day. Yet many Americans view Congress with a mix of frustration, confusion, and disapproval.

To promote a better understanding of Congress, the West Virginia and Regional History Center at West Virginia University Libraries will open a new exhibit, “The People’s Branch: Exploring the U.S. Congress with Archives,” on April 2, in the Downtown Campus Library’s Rockefeller Gallery. It will remain on display through December 2018.

“The People’s Branch” uses archival materials to explore the basic functions of Congress and the importance of the institution in American democracy. It highlights the representative responsibilities of the body and the interactions between politicians and constituents. It encourages visitors to consider how Congress has evolved over time and how it continues to shape politics and public policy.

“With the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, the exhibit offers a chance to look at the legislative branch broadly and to reflect on how the institution has remained consistent, and changed, over time” said Danielle Emerling, WVRHC assistant curator and congressional and political papers archivist.

In curating the exhibit, Emerling used items from a number of the WVRHC’s modern congressional collections, including the papers of Senators Jay Rockefeller, Harley Kilgore, and Matthew Mansfield Neely, and Congressmen Nick Rahall, Harley O. Staggers, and Arch Moore.

To encourage both reflection and action, the exhibit has partnered with THE QUESTION creator Dr. Sharon Ryan, a philosophy professor at WVU, to engage visitors in thinking about the duties of representatives and citizens in a representative democracy.

On April 4, 1-4 p.m., and April 5, 9 a.m.-noon, the League of Women Voters of Morgantown-Monongalia County will set up a voter registration table in the lobby of the Downtown Campus Library.

Faculty members interested in bringing classes to the Library for tours or to use the congressional archives should contact Danielle Emerling at 304-293-2574.

This exhibition opens during Congress Week, recognized annually during the first week of April by the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC) to promote a better public understanding of the legislative branch. WVU Libraries is an institutional member of ACSC.


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