This is the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. Do you see the two archway entrances? It is here you will start saying to yourself or maybe even out loud. I am going to like this place. The architecture outside is impressive in its own right but wait until you see inside. You will have to pass through security as I am sure is the case with most government buildings in D.C. This place is special.
Wow! Am I right? The marble, the carving, the detail all make you marvel at the masterful craftsmanship.This photo was taken from the main desk. Make sure you stop there and get a map, they love to gush about their collection. The pride in their work just beams through their speech. Also, take a tour with a docent if one is available. You won't miss a highlight and you can ask all the questions you like. The woman at the front desk, after supplying us with many interesting facts, told us to hurry up the steps to see the Main Reading Room before it gets too crowded and don't miss the Thomas Jefferson collection, she urged. It is something very special and unique to Americans. It gave me chills. I use loc.gov quite often online, so I know the digital collection, it is vast. I had no idea what was available in person. I do not remember the percentage of the collection onsite but I do remember being told only 40% of the collection is in English. This is a collection from around the world. Some of the books and archives are here and in connecting buildings and a lot more of the artifacts are stored at Fort Meade.
Heading up the main staircase you are greeted by the Mosaic of Minerva, by Vedder. She sparks and glistens as the Roman Goddess and guardian of civilization. You have a choice on which side to enter once you are up the stairs. Inside either door you are lead to the balcony that overlooks the Main Reading Room.
Statues are strategically placed above each section and you begin to notice the words, law, poetry, art, religion, philosophy, science, history, commerce. You are gazing into the circle of knowledge. Two representatives of each category mark the section of the library's topics below. Some of the representative from left Solon (Law), Homer and Shakespeare (Poetry), Frances Bacon and Plato (Philosophy), Beethoven and Michelangelo (Art) are held in high regard throughout the world
The most valued collection to America, in my opinion, is the Thomas Jefferson Collection. It has it's own special room as it should and the books as so visible with clear glass cases on both sides. You can clearly read each and every title. Jefferson has quite the intellect and wide range of interest. The collection has remained in the same order and category that the third President of the United States had it in.Every one knows the story of the Jefferson collection correct?
For those that are just catching up, I have a little insight into how the Library of Congress came to obtain it from visiting Monticello. It all began with a fire during the War of 1812. Read the official story.
It can't get any better than that, can it? Do you remember the Main Reading Room scroll back up to look at it again. I left out a major component on purpose. It deserves its own section and picture. The dome ceiling. You can barely get a full glimpse from the balcony BUT if you get a Reader Card you can obtain access to the Main Reading Room and look up and see it. You cannot take picture inside the Main Reader Room this photograph is taken from signage. I will tell you later how you can obtain a Reader card which allows you to request to see anything in the Library of Congress collection.
Expanding the circle out, you see countries and cultures that represented the contributions to Western Civilization as believed in 1897. Scroll down on the loc.gov link to The Paintings in the Dome for full details. Interesting choices of the time. It makes you think what a young country and a small part we play in the scheme of things. Also of note, he is upside down and I will swing it around for you, America's face is modeled after Abraham Lincoln. See the next photograph.
EGYPT: WRITTEN RECORDS
THE MIDDLE AGES: MODERN LANGUAGES
ITALY: THE FINE ARTS
GERMANY: THE ART OF PAINTING
The Giant Bible of Mainz
The Gutenberg Bible
Of special interest in speaking of bibles, I was told at the front desk that Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Koran translated into English was the most requested book to view at the Library of Congress. Another interesting point to ponder, finding people who are able to translate books in different languages appears to be a harder task, although the Library of Congress has a much diverse and capable body of employees, Armenian candidates are becoming a rare find.
I spent two hours at the Library of Congress and barely scratched the surface. You can go to their website, it's incredible but seeing it in person is a privilege you want to make time for on your next visit to Washington D.C. There is so much more to share.