WASHINGTON — Inauguration-week sermons would be videotaped to highlight Barack Obama's rise to power in an unprecedented quest by the Library of Congress to capture the event for future generations.
The library's American Folklife Center is soliciting churches, synagogues, mosques and others for copies of sermons or passionate speeches that focus on the significance of the Jan. 20 inauguration of Obama as the country's first black president.
The Folklife Center is looking for both video and audio clips, all to be preserved in a public collection that includes interviews after Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"If a historian asks 'How did Americans react to Obama's inauguration?' we'll have immediate responses to this powerful event," said Dr. David A. Taylor, head of research and programs at the American Folklife Center.
The "Inauguration 2009 Sermons and Orations Project" marks the first time the library has gathered this sort of material from a U.S. presidential inauguration. Taylor says the project is especially timely — with the inauguration coming a day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday — and as it ties into King's reputation as a great orator.
Nearly 70 percent of the 4,000 collections at the center involve the spoken word, whether it's on paper, audio or video.
Michael Taft, head archivist at the Folklife Center, says it was decided to collect inauguration-themed sermons because that speech form is poetic, dramatic — and at some churches, "an important art form."
The center is asking churches and others only for video and audio clips of speeches given Jan. 16-25. Contributors are encouraged to provide related items, such as written texts, photographs or church programs. The items will be copied and preserved in acid-free folders and in climate-controlled areas.