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2005 — The Open Road – an Library of Congress exhibit

June 27- August 31

 

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Since Colonial times the “open road” has been a potent symbol and provocative myth, mixed
firmly into the foundation of the United States. It has also been a recurring and powerful literary
motif; expressed in Walt Whitman’s’ ‘Song of the Open Road’ and other poetic works, in the
writings of Mark Twain, the transcendental musings of wanderers like Henry Thoreau and
John Muir, in the landscape photography of William Henry Jackson and in the fiction of writers
like Jack London and Jack Kerouac.

The Open Road traces the birth and growth of this evocative concept through the words and
images of those who helped define this nation, its ideas and ideals.


PANELS

openroad4I TAKE TO THE OPEN ROAD
“Whatever and whoever we are – Native Americans, European Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans – we are still a diverse coming ling of wanderers united by an open road.”

I AM THE POET OF THE SOUL
“Perhaps more than any other artist, the American poet has spread gospel of the open road.”

WALKERS OF MANY A MILE OF LAND
“Even before early settlers and explorers roamed westward, a “Voyage of Discovery” – led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1804 – had altered the way new Americans viewed themselves and the country’s indigenous inhabitants.”

A CLOSER LOOK
“The irrepressible Mark Twain was happy to cast the first stone at open road myths. His ‘Life On the Mississippi’ and ‘Roughing It’ are two accounts of what really transpired “out west,” with human failings given full treatment.”

HOBOES AND OTHER ‘DHARMA BUMS
“The American hobo is a quintessential character of the open road in the tradition of the European tramp and the Asian religious pilgrim.”

THE PICTURE ALIVE
“…artists created a body of work that demonstrated the boundless possibilities – for growth and exploitation – of a virgin land.”

ARTISTS OF INDIAN WAYS
“Some artists devoted themselves to preserving, in sketchbooks and on canvas, the fast-disappearing life ways of American Indian peoples.”

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THE CAMERA AND PLATE ARE PREPARED
“The advent of photography in the mid-1800s lessened the need for painted or sketched images, but it did not lessen the majesty of the captured landscapes for new viewers.”

DOCUMENTING AMERICA
“As techniques became more sophisticated, photographers expanded their visions and ambitions.”

WANDERING AMAZED
“Early European explorers of the “New World” found an abundance of wildlife and were introduced to many unfamiliar plants – such as tomatoes, potatoes and tobacco – by American Indians.”

A MOUSE IS MIRACLE ENOUGH
“Before the deluge of European settlers had begun to arrive, North America was teeming with extraordinary and unique animal life.”

ALLONS! YET TAKE WARNING
“Henry David Thoreau came to believe that Americans, even in the mid-1800s, were squandering their natural heritage, exploiting it almost as soon as they were exploring it.”

I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC
“The road has been an outlet for all America’s singers, either as a place of adventure of an escape from troubles.”

OUT FROM BEHIND THE SCREEN
“In recent times, movies and television screens have, for better or worse, become our cultural mirrors, providing vivid – and sometimes skewed – glimpses of our collective past.”

TOURING THE OPEN ROAD
“After the early waves of settlers had established permanent outposts across the continent, traveling west became more of a recreation than a necessity.”

ALLONS! THE ROAD IS BEFORE US
“The open road is an inextricable part of our physical, spiritual, and national landscape, and it continues to beckon us.”

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openroad1smSong of the Open Road

“A foot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road…”

Walt Whitman

LOCATION: 2nd floor gallery
Curator: Library of Congress