Making sure Civilization marches forwardThe Smithsonian...

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April 16, 1995|By Stephanie Shapiro

Making sure Civilization marches forward

The Smithsonian Institution's trove of American artifacts is well-known to millions. But how many people realize that the Library of Congress is also a wondrous store of photographs, art, films and curiosities including a slice of Tom Thumb's wedding cake and a Micronesian navigation chart made of palm reeds?

Civilization, a handsome new magazine, allows readers to browse through the library's extraordinary collection without leaving their armchairs. In turn, "We are dusting off a lot of things that [otherwise] would be in the stacks," says deputy editor Frances Stead Sellers, who commutes to Capitol Hill from her Roland Park home.

Launched last November by private investors in an arrangement approved by Congress, Civilization already has nearly 200,000 subscribers, says Ms. Sellers, who previously worked for the Washington Post's "Book World" section. One dollar of every $20 subscription is donated to the Library of Congress.

Using the library's collection as a springboard, the bimonthly magazine contains scholarly articles, essays, book reviews and photo spreads. There are also regular features such as "Curiosities," which focus on some of the library's quirkier possessions, including the smallest book ever printed, a millimeter-square edition of the nursery rhyme "Old King Cole."

The magazine boasts an impressive list of contributing editors, among them, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and authors Reynolds Price and Jane Smiley.

As Ms. Sellers plumbs the library and speaks to curators, she delights in unearthing objects that will serve as inspiration for future articles.

These are the in-house discoveries that inform Civilization, a magazine, says Ms. Sellers, that "shows what we can learn in the contemporary world through access to this gold mine." Quentin Moseley believes in the power of light -- neon light, in particular. Over the years, his fanciful outdoor creations -- he calls them "night drawings" -- have become civic legends in such cities as Memphis and Miami.

From 1981 to 1988, "Cosmic Candy," Mr. Moseley's animated neon installation on the roof of the Maryland Institute, College of Art's Fox building, made motoring along the Jones Falls Expressway a lot less tiresome.

The artist's current neon work is intended for interiors. One of his animated pieces, "The Wall," is on display through April 28 in an exhibit at the new Robert G. Merrick School of Business at the University of Baltimore.

The show, titled "Light As A Helping Hand," presents various neon visions that challenge assumptions about people with disabilities. Mr. Moseley's 6 1/2 -by-7-foot animated "The Wall" is about the barriers that confront the disabled; the colored neon lights which ultimately scale the wall create an even stronger symbol.

An instructor at the Maryland Institute, Mr. Moseley is also well-known for his prints, paintings and assemblages. A recent exhibition of his work at Galerie Francoise in Brooklandville was inspired by prehistoric images of cave artists at Lascaux and Pechemerle in France. He says light art and cave paintings share powerful simplicity that captures the essence of their subjects.

"I've always been interested in geometry: Man's simplification of his relationship to the world," he says.

Mr. Moseley, 46, lives in Reservoir Hill with his wife, artist Stephanie Garmey. A vice president of Maryland Printmakers, he is coordinating the organization's pilot workshop in printmaking at Charles Carroll of Carrolton Elementary School on Central Avenue.

Linell Smith

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