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Library Gives Gershwins a Room

March 17, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A piano honors composer George Gershwin and a typewriter pays tribute to his lyricist brother Ira at the first room in the Library of Congress dedicated to musical personalities.

Between 1918 and 1937, the brothers worked together on 20 musicals and wrote 425 songs, including the folk opera ``Porgy and Bess″ and the Pulitzer Prize-winning ``Of Thee I Sing.″ George Gershwin also wrote ``Rhapsody in Blue,″ ``An American in Paris″ and other works for orchestra and piano.

The new room, which opened Tuesday in the library’s main building on Capitol Hill, is dominated by George Gershwin’s grand piano with Ira’s portable typewriter nearby. Self-portraits by both brothers hang on the walls, and a video kiosk allows visitors to hear the music and view documents.

Library curator Raymond A. White said the room underscored that the Library of Congress ``is the world’s preeminent resource″ on the two brothers with a wealth of manuscripts, printed music, lyric sheets and personal and business correspondence.

Ira Gershwin began contributing to the library’s collection in 1939, with his brother’s sketch for ``The Crapshooter’s Song″ from ``Porgy and Bess,″ and continued his gifts for decades.

George died in 1937 at age 38, Ira in 1983 at 86. After his brother’s death, Ira collaborated with composers Kurt Weill and Jerome Kern.

Wright said the unpublished work in the collection would provide fertile ground for those seeking new material, but he doubted that any major work would be found among the items.

The Library of Congress has devoted rooms, with books and memorabilia, to figures ranging from President Woodrow Wilson to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes to author Ralph Ellison. The library’s Coolidge Auditorium is largely devoted to music and has a valuable collection of instruments. The Gershwin display marks the first time the library has devoted a special room to a musical collection.