National Book Festival


Going to the National Book Festival may not be a museum visit per se, but the event does take place on the National Mall (surrounded by museums) and it is sponsored by the Library of Congress, which brings out a traveling exhibit truck, educational activities, and a pavilion of LOC people talking about their jobs.

NBF also happens to be my favorite event of the whole year. It’s better than Christmas!

Inside a truck is a traveling Library of Congress exhibit

The exhibit truck describes Thomas Jefferson’s classification scheme that divided books into three categories: Memory, Reason, and Imagination, which roughly correspond to history, science, and art. The wall panels in the truck show examples of library holdings in each category.

In the LOC pavilion, representatives from LOC gave short talks on a variety of topics. I heard a docent discuss the art and architecture of the Jefferson Building. She gave the same information she would have given on a tour, and she encouraged the audience to come see the magnificence in person.

Of course, the main reason I was there was to hear authors. I heard authors tell jokes, read poems, answer audience questions, talk about their life stories and favorite books and inspiration for their own work, discuss abstract ideas like inspiration and imagination, and, in one case, sing.

Top: Toni Morrison, James H. Billington, Esmeralda Santiago, Gregory Maguire. Bottom: Tomie dePaola, Susan Cooper, Yusef Komunyakaa, Garrison Keillor

I have gone to NBF every year since 2006, but I’m sure that if it had existed in my childhood, I would have enjoyed it then, too. The event is full of activities designed to instill in children a love of reading. Kids’ art activities abound, along with a Family Storytelling Stage that hosts readings as well as musical performances, a Magic School Bus that kids can tour, costumed children’s book characters, and lots of free stuff. And of course, there are the pavilions for children’s authors (where I saw Tomie dePaola) and authors for teens (where I saw Susan Cooper). Every year, authors and literacy advocates remind caregivers of the importance of reading to children every day.

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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