Contact: Chris Philipp
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Lafayette: Citizen of Two Worlds
Exhibition and events celebrate anniversary of Lafayette’s birth
Statue of Lafayette by Aime-Jules Dalou
An exhibition drawn from Cornell University Library’s Lafayette Collection, the largest of its kind in America, begins Tuesday, Sept. 25 in the Hirshland Gallery of the Carl A. Kroch Library.
“Lafayette: Citizen of Two Worlds” marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Marquis de Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, and explores his historical importance in the United States and France. More than 11,000 original manuscripts, documents, letters, books, images and artifacts comprise Cornell’s Lafayette Collection and the exhibition is the most comprehensive display of its materials since 1964.
The exhibition kicks off with a celebration at 4:30 p.m. hosted by the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in the Hirshland Gallery. The event is free and open to the public.
“The collection is outstanding. It is unparalleled outside of France,” said Laurent Ferri, the exhibition curator. “Lafayette is a powerful symbol of American-Franco relations and the exhibition shows how global his career was. He was viewed as a champion of freedom everywhere.”
“Lafayette: Citizen of Two Worlds” covers all facets of Lafayette’s life and career. It documents his youth and his involvement in the American and French revolutions. His lifelong advocacy of liberal ideals is revealed through original letters, rare books, documents and artifacts. Highlights include the only known life mask of Lafayette, battle maps, his personal correspondence with American presidents, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and other notable figures such as Mary Shelley and James Fenimore Cooper.
“The symbolic importance of Lafayette’s support for the struggling American colonies cannot be overemphasized,” said Interim University Librarian Anne R. Kenney. “Here was a young Frenchman from a distinguished family coming to the aid of the revolutionaries against the power of Great Britain. America’s love affair with Lafayette was almost immediate and permanent. This collection explores the man behind the legend.”
As part of the 250th anniversary celebration, Cornell University is hosting a series of lectures and events at its Ithaca campus in conjunction with the Library’s Lafayette exhibition. They include:
- The Marquis de Lafayette on Film
America, D.W. Griffith's 1924 silent film, will be shown on Monday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Willard Straight Theater. The event will be introduced by Ferri and feature a live piano accompaniment by Dr. Philip Carli.
Jefferson in Paris, featuring Nick Nolte as Jefferson and Lambert Wilson as Lafayette, on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Willard Straight Theater.
- “Music for Lafayette! A Lecture-Pianoforte Concert” on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. in the Guerlac Room of the A.D. White House. A reception will follow the Saturday performance.
- Lecture: “Lafayette and the Emergence of American National Identity” on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 4:00 p.m. in Kroch Library’s lecture room (2B Kroch Library). Lloyd Kramer, a Cornell alumnus and noted Lafayette scholar, will examine the ways in which Lafayette's European cultural status and life history gave him a unique role in the emergence of American nationalism. Kramer is the Dean Smith Distinguished Term Professor and the chair of the history department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"Lafayette: Citizen of Two Worlds” opens Sept. 25 and closes April 28. For more information, call 255-3530 and visit this Web site, where a complete online version of the exhibition may be viewed beginning Sept. 25.