October isn’t just for Halloween frights — it’s also American Archives Month!
The Kennedy Center is celebrating with “If These Halls Could Talk” through Sept. 2022.
“For the 50th anniversary of the center, we launched ‘If These Halls Could Talk,'” Lead Archivist Sofia Becerra-Licha told WTOP. “The mission of the archives is to capture the organizational and performance history … everything from programs and playbills to minutes of administrative decisions to lots of photographs. It’s a really rich history.”
You’ll see the celebration as soon as you enter the building.
“If you come in, you won’t be able to miss it,” Becerra-Licha said. “You will know that we are celebrating our 50th anniversary because in both the Hall of States and the Hall of Nations you’ll see a large, hanging ’50.’ We call it ’50 in Air.’ It is comprised of window cards from the various decades, so it is a creative way of displaying the many posters.”
You’ll find more displays in the Concert Hall, Eisenhower Theater and Opera House.
“You’ll see photos of performance highlights from each of those houses,” Becerra-Licha said. “If you come all the way in … to the Eisenhower Theater, you’ll see photos on all three tiers of the balconies. The railings also have images … my favorite is the Opera House where you can see the first Honors class and the most recent Honors class.”
The celebration continues outdoors on the relatively new REACH campus.
“Archives on the Potomac features moments from Kennedy Center history and the area even before it was the Kennedy Center back when it was a brewery … tracing back to when the National Symphony Orchestra had concerts on the Potomac to various other moments (like) the signing of the National Cultural Center Act,” Becerra-Licha said.
It all comes from a recent initiative to document the venue’s history.
“The Kennedy Center Archives as a formal entity is relatively new,” Becerra-Licha said. “I arrived in 2019 as the first archivist hired. We are a small and mighty team of myself, an archives assistant and a processing archivist. The three of us are charged with tackling a backlog of more than 50 years, including the National Symphony and National Opera.”
Where are these keepsakes stored when they’re not on display?
“Our materials are stored in many locations across campus,” Becerra-Licha said. “We don’t have enough room to put everything in one place, so it’s basically scattered throughout. There is one main records room, then the archives office itself is located across the street in one of the Watergate buildings where we bring things over for folks to view.”
The celebration can be enjoyed in-person or virtually from home.
“Folks are welcome to come on campus, very socially distanced,” Becerra-Licha said. “You can take a look on the website as well where we’re constantly rolling out oral histories, so there are really multiple ways to engage and get a sense of the rich history.”