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Banner Moments: The National Anthem in American Life


Sunday June 14, 2015: 12:00pm to Sunday August 30, 2015: 6:00pm


Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room Exhibit


Celebrating the bicentennial of the U.S. National Anthem, this exhibit illustrates through interpretive panels, historical documents and photographs, the cultural 200-year history of “The Star-Spangled Banner” (1814–2014). The tale that emerges demonstrates the power of music and poetry to spark the social imagination and thus create a sense of shared community.

The year 2014 marked the 200th birthday of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States of America. Inspired by the successful defense of Baltimore, Maryland from British attack on September 13 & 14, 1814, lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key penned his now famous lyric. Rather than extraordinary, Key’s creative impulse was typical of early America’s broadside ballad tradition in which new words were written to fit well known tunes. The result, however, was far from everyday—Key could not have predicted that his song would survive the moment, yet become his nation’s singular anthem.

Follow the “The Star-Spangled Banner” from the moments leading up to September 14, 1814 through the present day and explore the social history of our national song.