Friends of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) in Baltimore and Hands Around the Library are sharing a burst of public attention this month at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, which has a row of giant windows facing Cathedral Street in downtown Baltimore. At the suggestion of Deborah Taylor, the librarian who coordinates school and student services at Enoch Pratt, the library’s art director Jack Young created this giant poster.
When people scan the QR code in the lower corner, they are immediately transported to a page giving the full name of the library in Alexandria, Egypt – and the opportunity to contribute to our ongoing Virtual Book Drive. The fundraiser is a partnership with the nonprofit literacy organization First Book and Washington-Baltimore Friends of the BA under the auspices of the Baltimore Luxor Alexandria Sister City Committees. We have raised $610 so far to purchase books for the Children’s Library at the BA from the First Book Global Marketplace but we want the total to be much bigger before our fund drive ends on April 27. Please join us with your donation and the opportunity to choose specific books from the BA wish list!
If you are in Baltimore, your second stop after the library should be Kin+ Cargo: Exploring Baltimore’s Sister Cities, a public art exhibition in a PODS container at the Inner Harbor. Ashley Molese, a graduate student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, borrowed objects from residents of Baltimore’s Sister Cities to explore life in these port cities. Baltimore currently has active Sister City relationships with Rotterdam, Netherlands; Kawasaki, Japan; Xiamen, China; Piraeus, Greece; and Luxor and Alexandria, Egypt. The exhibit includes Japanese tea sets, a bottle scraper and bollard paperweight from Rotterdam, jump ropes, porcelain, tote bags and fabric.
Sister Cities are established to promote citizen diplomacy. Started after a White House Conference in 1956, there are now 600 American cities with 2,000 partnerships in 136 countries As Ashley says, “Connections made official on paper, between city governments, have personally affected and touched individuals around the globe. Representatives on the Sister City Committees have made it heir life’s work to preserve and promote such ties.” Boy Scouts are exchanging visits this year between Baltimore and Kawasaki. The Rotterdam Committee regularly exchanges art and artists.
In the past, the Baltimore-Luxor-Alexandria Sister City Committee has hosted student interns, librarians from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and tours to Egypt. Most recently, the Committee used a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide clean drinking water to Nagaa Village Gad Al Kareem near Luxor. Currently, the Committee is sponsoring the Virtual Book Drive for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Children’s Library.
Even in the small space of a PODS container, the Kin + Cargo exhibit offers a chair and settee so visitors can read anecdotes about the various objects or look at maps, meet other visitors and imagine the connections and similarities between their life and life in China, the Netherlands or Egypt. Kin + Cargo will be open until April 21 in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, noon to 7 p.m. daily.