Over the years the Manuscript Division has entertained distinguished visitors by showing them interesting and significant items from its holdings. By the early 1990s, the number of special tours and presentations had dramatically increased, placing additional burdens on the staff and subjecting favored documents to frequent handling. To address the staff's preservation and scheduling concerns, in late 1992, manuscript historian Marvin W. Kranz suggested that the division identify a group of representative documents which could be removed from their original collections and rehoused together in special mats as a unique ready reference collection. Staff would be able to pull, safely and on short notice, selections from this collection for public presentations.
|Manuscript historian Marvin W. Kranz (center; wearing bow tie) showing selected Core Collection items to Manuscript Division staff members (left to right) Margaret McAleer, Patricia Craig, Brian McGuire, Staley Hitchcock, Joseph Brooks, and Ronald Gephart. Manuscript Division Slide Collection|
While the selections were being gathered in 1993, division chief James H. Hutson appointed a committee of Dr. Kranz, Alice L. Birney, and Janice E. Ruth to prepare a grant proposal to the James Madison Council, a private fund-raising auxiliary of the Library of Congress, for funds to preserve and house the Core Collection. In preparing its proposal, which the Council funded in January 1994, the committee expanded the Core Collection preservation project to include two related outreach initiatives. First, the grant enabled the division to create a slide library consisting of slides of each Core Collection item and images of the division's facilities for use in staff presentations before Library classes, tour groups, and professional organizations. Secondly, the grant provided money for preparing a fifteen-minute video about the division and its holdings (including many Core Collection items) for viewing within the Library and for distribution to potential donors unable to visit the division in person. The slide library and preservation work on the Core Collection were completed in late 1994, and the video was finished in early 1996.
In 1997, in honor of its centennial, the Manuscript Division decided to make its Core Collection available to an even wider audience by disseminating over the Internet digital reproductions together with detailed legends discussing each item's significance. In addition to providing historical context for the manuscripts, the division was able in its Words and Deeds website to reproduce most Core Collection documents in their entirety, an improvement upon the original Core Collection, which was necessarily limited to selected pages of longer manuscripts. Accompanying the documents are several thematic essays about the division's holdings and an introductory essay about the division's activities, all of which are illustrated with slides created as part of the original Core Collection project funded by the James Madison Council.