In 1906, City Librarian Charles Lummis initiated an autograph collection, soliciting hundreds of notable men and women from across the country to submit a representative expression or artwork to the Los Angeles Public Library’s permanent collection. Lummis sent blank stationery out with the call to “improve the enclosed page”, and received paintings, poems, speeches, and music from the likes of author L. Frank Baum, anthropologist Franz Boas, painter James Carol Beckwith, and “America the Beautiful” songwriter Katherine Lee Bates. The collection continued to grow intermittently after Lummis’ request, eventually adding pieces from Langston Hughes, Isaac Asimov, Helen Keller and many others.
Now, we are re-visiting the Autograph Collection, asking how we can improve upon the city’s many pages. In that spirit, in June 2018 we invited all Angelenos to add their names and drawings, poems or memories to the collection.
This project culminates in Spring 2019 with a city-wide conversation and a book that will draw from the Autograph Collection to help us think about the culture, history, and politics of the Los Angeles autograph and signature—from sidewalk cement names to murals and street names. Following Songs in the Key of L.A. and To Live and Dine in L.A., this is the third in a series of projects examining and activating the special collections of the Los Angeles Public Library, curated by Josh Kun, author and Director of the USC Annenberg School of Communication.
Learn more about the Lummis Autograph Collection and see selections from this unique collection.
This program is generously supported by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and its donors.