We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Browse the Library of Congress’ video archives
Libraries are a radical concept: public spaces founded on the idea that knowledge and resources should be distributed to a community without censorship or barriers to access. In this spirit, the Library of Congress maintains an extensive digital catalog of films and concerts available to anyone—no account required. If you’ve recently become interested in the history of the post office, check out footage of D.C. postal workers on the job in 1903 as part of the “America at Work, America at Leisure” video collection. Homeschooling parents and concertgoers missing the energy of live performance might be interested in an educational workshop that Grammy-nominated band Tank and the Bangas gave to local students last year. Lead singer Tarriona “Tank” Ball talks about quitting an unfulfilling job at IHOP to pursue her creative career and the years of work that preceded the “overnight success” of winning NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest. The band also discusses the intersection of spoken word and music, and how to overcome feelings of invisibility. “There is nothing and nobody like you in the entire world, and that’s your power,” Tank tells the children in the audience. There’s also nothing quite like the intellectual freedom promised by a library and the power gained from the knowledge therein. The Library of Congress film archive can be found at loc.gov/film-and-videos/. Free. —Mercedes Hesselroth
Transcribe for the Smithsonian Transcription Center
A lot has happened this year: Outside of the global pandemic and protests against racial injustice, we’re also preparing for a historic presidential election. As a result, many people are looking to become civically engaged, whether by joining a march or tutoring kids who can’t go to school. If you’re looking to learn more about the past in the process, you could help the Smithsonian convert scanned documents from significant periods in American history in order to create online databases. The Smithsonian Transcription Center offers virtual projects where volunteers—branded as #volunpeers, especially on social media—type out the documents at their leisure. Got a free hour on Saturday morning? You could transcribe the diary of a 1920s farmer or official records from 18th-century bureaucracies. Recently, a group of volunteers helped transcribe over 100,000 pages from the Freedmen’s Bureau for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Be a part of history by making it more accessible. The Smithsonian Transcription Center is available at transcription.si.edu. Free.—Kaila Philo