The Kislak Family Foundation is donating $10 million to create a new gallery which will help people better understand the history of early Americas. The library will feature Jay I. Kislak’s collection of rare books, artefacts, maps, paintings and other various documentation.

Introducing “Voices of the Early Americas: The Jay I. Kislak Collection”

The gallery shall be known as “Voices of the Early Americas: The Jay I. Kislak Collection”. Librarian of congress, Carla Hayden, comments on her excitement and generosity of the contribution:

The Kislak Family Foundation continues to be such a special partner to the Library of Congress in telling the magnificent story of our world. With this generous gift, we are honoured to continue Jay Kislak’s legacy through this newly renovated gallery that thoughtfully shares with visitors the rich and complex histories of those who came before us.

Librarian of congress, Carla Hayden

“Voices of the Early Americas: The Jay I. Kislak Collection” is due to commence in 2024. While the exhibition will feature many antique collections, it will also include modern art, literature and poetry which has all been inspired by deep American history. Ultimately the gallery aims to explore both the history of the Native cultures of the Americas before colonisation by Europeans and the aftermath of that event.

Paula Kislak, chair of the Kislak foundation, expresses her influences for providing such a generous gift:

My father wanted this collection to live on well beyond his own time at the finest institution in the world. By reimagining how this unparalleled resource informs and inspires the American people, the Library of Congress will ensure that his vision comes to fruition for future generations.

Paula Kislak, chair of the Kislak foundation

Intentions for the new exhibition

  1. To provide a fuller narrative and chronology of early American history and tell the story via an immersive and informative new gallery.
  2. To display more items from the Kislak collection, with some artefacts dating back to 1,000 B.C. (The majority of these objects are to be displayed in the rear of the gallery for the very first time via a state-of-the-art, transparent artefact wall.)
  3. The exhibition also intends to incorporate select items from other Library collections, combining photography, rare books, artistic works, textiles and manuscripts that will serve to place the Kislak collection in context.
  4. The gallery intents to give “voice” to the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas.
  5. It is planned for an external advisory committee of scholars and curators to help shape and challenge the exhibition’s development. Ralph Appelbaum Associates is designing the exhibition.

Exhibition curator, John Hessler, comments upon his vision:

It is my hope that our visitors will have a different idea of the history of the early Americas after they explore this gallery. A central theme will examine how the Americas we know today grew out of a polyphony of voices – a mixing of Indigenous, African and European cultures.

Exhibition curator, John Hessler

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