Library of CongressThis was the theme of the tour during my Memorial Day Weekend visit to the Library of Congress.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I value the insights gleaned from free tours in museums.

 The docent, Cora, was very knowledgeable in forming this link.  In order for Democracy to function optimally, a learned populace should elect educated leaders.  And not only should leaders know the law and government, but they also need to understand economics, the environment, health, science, etc.  Oh – Jefferson Ideals… it makes you want to read a million books just thinking about it.

Now onto the History of the Library of Congress:  The LOC was established by Congress in 1800 and was housed inside the Capitol.  (Looking at the Capitol from the LOC, it would be in the right wing side of the building.  I’ll put up a picture of this later today.)  When the British burned the Capitol in 1814, they incidentally burned the LOC as well.  Too bad for them burning buildings did not equal winning the war.

For the rest of the post I’ll showcase some of the Architectural/Decorative Highlights of the building and share some of the intereting Historical Tidbits I learned.

Architectural/Decorative Highlights:

So while a lot of the building was impressive… there is some pretty awful art in there.  See the Government depictions of a democratic government vs. a corrupt government.  The building also shows the world under Anarchy…

Historical Tidbits – a little learning a day keeps the dr. away?

In January 1815, Congress accepted Jefferson’s offer to sell his library collection to them.  Over his lifetime, Thomas Jefferson collected on average 5 books a day.  (5!!! – how many do you buy in a week? a month? a year?)  Congress was not sure that they really wanted his books – they encompassed all sorts of subjects, far beyond legislature and governance and also included different languages.  However, they decided to purchase his collection and pay per book based upon its size – not its rarity or pedigree.  Oh Congress…  For $23,950, they purchased his 6,487 books – and thus it became that the LOC collects all subjects.

The LOC also rapidly bolstered its collection under the Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford through the copyright law of 1870, which required everyone applying for copyright to deposit in the Library two copies of every book, map, print, or music to be registered in the US.  Pretty sweet way to make sure your collection is on the cutting-edge.

As what commonly happens with rapid expansion, the LOC run out of space in it’s little cubby in the Capitol.  In 1886, Congress authorized the building of a new Library Building.  The Italian Renaissance style building designed by John L. Smithmeyer and Paul J. Pelz was actually finished early and under budget.  I had no idea that anything related to government was ever finished early or under budget…

During the height of the Great Depression, Congress decide to acquire one of the last entact copies of a Gutenburg Bible.  While I am having trouble finding any detail of this transaction online, Cora informed the group that a Southern senator lobbied Congress to make this purchase.  He said that the American people do not have many monuments and that this was too precious of an item to not get.  Glad we have it now, but I don’t think I would have been happy with that purchase during the Depression…

Well that’s it.  Next adventure report-out:  Washington Monument.  Woop Woop!

~ Jessica

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