Ever since I was a little girl and learned about the massive library located in our nation’s capitol, I dreamed of visiting. I imagined a paradise filled with books. All the books ever published.
Well, I just came back from a trip to Washington D.C. where I finally visited the Library of Congress for the first time. Although reality often pales in comparison to our dreams, the Library of Congress did not disappoint.
If you plan on visiting DC, make sure to check out the Library of Congress. The Jefferson Building sits right behind the Capitol building and it is worth the trip.
"Books must follow sciences and not sciences books." Inscription under window in @librarycongress #GeekinDC pic.twitter.com/UvInBP7XJJ
— GeekyLibrary (@GeekyLibrary) May 18, 2015
Things to See while Visiting the Library of Congress
Here are my top three favorite things I saw at the Library of Congress— a very hard list to make, considering the amazing special exhibits featured at the library.
1) The Gutenberg Bible
There are only three left in the world of this landmark book and one of them is housed at the Library of Congress where it is displayed open in a temperature controlled display case. The Gutenburg Bible, printed using moveable type, was the landmark that kicked off modern publishing and printed books.
2) The Jefferson Building
Although the special exhibits inside the library are fascinating, the building itself is still remarkable. I visited Paris last year, and I’d say it rivals the architecture I saw there. The gorgeously detailed artwork is devoted to books and knowledge. Major authors and thinkers are paid homage to and the entire place is breathtaking.
3) Thomas Jefferson’s Library
After the original library was burnt down in 1814 when British Troops invaded the capitol, bookish former president Thomas Jefferson offered his entire library (nearly 6,500 volumes). He famously said, “there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer” … a philosophy that still guides the Library’s acquisition principle today.
Today, the library is attempting to rebuild the collection with the original books, duplicates from the library system or with new acquisitions. This collection is on display behind glass and it is fascinating to browse the titles. Oh sure, there’s politics and law and philosophy in nearly ever language, but also… beekeeping?
Oh, Jefferson is also the guy who famously wrote to a friend, saying “I cannot live without books.”
I think I like this guy.
In addition to the three things on my list, I also saw the first map of the USA made in the USA, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s telepromter printout from the announcement of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Gershwin’s piano and Bob Hope’s golf club (I really enjoyed the politics and satire exhibit).
Oh, and on a side note? I swear the Library of Congress had the best gift shop in all of D.C. — especially if you love books.
That library is simply amazing. Happy ABEA!