Kamala Harris’ sculpture now at the MLK Library


A six-foot shattered glass image depicting Vice President Harris arrived at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library this week, occupying a space that will eventually house an exhibit tracing black feminism in the district, from the turn of the 20th century, civil rights and eras of black power to the present day.

The sculpture, which Swiss artist Simon Berger hammered by hand, was chased out of a warehouse in New York on Wednesday morning. The installation team wiped down the glass with a blue cleaning solution, increasing its luster and shine, and repainted any parts that were scratched in transit.

The installation, organized by the National Museum of Women’s History, marks an important milestone for both organizations at a time when conservatives are increasingly seeking to control history teaching, challenging the book supply and trapping public libraries in a national battle for memory and preservation. meaning. As divisions have deepened, the museum – an online outlet founded in 1996 – is embarking on partnerships with libraries and other cultural institutions across the country, seeking to share facts about famous women and unknown in history.

The aim is to root the facilities in local experiences with the help of librarians and historians from those communities, Susan Whiting, chair of the board of trustees of the National Women’s History Museum, told The Washington Post in an interview.

The cracked glass installation is a tribute to the courage and strength of Harris’ accomplishments and will be on display until spring 2023.

Her role as vice president made her a first in many categories for the office of vice president – ​​she is the first woman to hold the position, and is the first South Asian American and the first black American. to occupy this position.

When asked why the work was not created by a woman or a minority person, Whiting noted that the museum got involved after it had already been made.

Berger’s work was created by a New York-based creative agency. After which, the museum partnered with Chief, a private network focused on connecting and supporting female leaders, to showcase the medium last year.

Harris’ image will be part of the museum’s goal to bring a comprehensive exhibit exploring black feminism to the library in the spring.

Acclaimed historians Sherie M. Randolph and Kendra T. Field curated the spring exhibit, which will tell the stories of black feminist leaders whose work has impacted the district and the country.

The exhibition will occupy the same space as the glass work.

“This space, because it’s accessible and welcoming, is so perfect for our exhibit of the struggles for women’s rights and civil rights that many black leaders had and still have,” Whiting said. “We are very happy to do this at this time.”

The timing has been complicated for the library, which has undergone more than $200 million in renovations as leaders redesigned a home worthy of a mission that goes far beyond the accessibility of books and computers: a community center that offers life skills, supports hobbies, and honors those who have contributed to the culture and life of DC.

Area residents can sign up to learn how to use a sewing machine and then book time to use it at later dates. Library staff teach budding podcasters how to use the equipment, giving them tools to record on their own when they book a dedicated recording room. Photographers and graphic designers, or those who want to get into the fields but can’t afford the software, have free options.

The library reopened in September 2020, but the public could not walk around and fully appreciate its facelift designed by Dutch architects. Visitors began to return and enjoy the space, albeit cautiously, around March 2021, said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the DC Public Library.

When they did, they encountered a dotted glass image of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at Cardozo High School to the right of the main entrance and a permanent exhibit on the fourth floor showing King’s ties to local activism – a direct response to district residents interviewed while renovations were being considered, who said the library needed to do more to honor King and other important DC historical figures.

Library visits still haven’t reached pre-coronavirus levels, and the MLK Library isn’t immune to readjusting to life in an active — but controlled — pandemic. The library recorded over 283,000 visits between January and September this year.

Reyes-Gavilan said he hopes the library’s partnership with the Women’s History Museum will become a model for other museum partnerships, even though content presented at DC might not be as easily displayed in other parts of the world. country.

Libraries serve communities and are not inherently political institutions, he said.

“Any time we have time to embrace DC values, we will take advantage of it,” he said. “We are proud to put people like Kamala D. Harris literally on a pedestal.”


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