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Library of Congress opens online exhibit for Carl Sagan’s papers

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Lisa Winter

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285 Library of Congress opens online exhibit for Carl Sagan’s papers
The Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive/Library of Congress

Carl Sagan is arguably one of the greatest scientific communicators of all time. Not only did he bring the general public the groundbreaking miniseries Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, but he authored the best-selling books such as Pale Blue Dot, Contact, Cosmos, and The Demon-Haunted World, among many others. In 2012, the Library of Congress acquired his notes, letters, and journals from Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan. The collection has now been made public in an online exhibition

In total, the Library of Congress took possession of nearly 800 boxes filled with documents, pictures, and even video cassettes that Sagan himself created over the course of his lifetime. There are complete drafts of his books, childhood report cards, personal letters, drawings, and much more. Around 300 items from the complete collection were selected to be digitized and will be displayed online for free, so that anyone in the world can have access to them and get inspired.


The complete title of the exhibit is The Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive. Yes, the same Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame. A longtime fan of Carl Sagan, MacFarlane donated his own money to the Library of Congress in order to purchase the documents from Ann Druyan. MacFarlane is quoted as saying: "The work of Carl Sagan has been a profound influence in my life, and the life of every individual who recognizes the importance of humanity's ongoing commitment to the exploration of our universe .... The continuance of our journey outward into space should always occupy some part of our collective attention, regardless of whatever Snooki did last week."

In addition to preserving Sagan’s memory through his papers, MacFarlane has also teamed up with Ann Druyan to bring the next chapter of the Cosmos TV miniseries, with both serving as executive producer. Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey will follow up from the original series and is set to premiere on March 9 at 9/8c on FOX. Neil deGrasse Tyson will be hosting. Though Tyson and Sagan never worked as colleagues, Sagan did read Tyson’s college application to Cornell and even gave him a private tour of his lab. Ultimately, Tyson decided to go to Harvard, but he did write Sagan a letter thanking him for his time and interest anyway. The letter has also been added to the online collection.

Though Carl Sagan passed away on December 20, 1996 following a prolonged battle with cancer, he is still a large influence on science communication and for up-and-coming scientists. It is through initiatives like The Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive and Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, that we will always keep the memory alive of Carl Sagan, the man who taught us to keep reaching out and try to better understand our place among the cosmos.


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