She's a grand ol' dame. The Library of Congress. THE LARGEST LIBRARY IN THE WORLD. Across the street from the United States Capital Building. Books...beyond belief. Maps...beyond belief. Recordings...anything published. BUT...outside of the building are some of the most incredible bas relief sculptures, architectural details and flags.
If I could only give you one tip for Washington D.C. it would be to visit the main entrance hall in the Library of Congress. This is my favorite building in the entire U.S.!
It's just breathtaking, covered with colorful mosaics and paintings and filled with columns and statues of all the heroes our founders admired. The architecture is very open and airy and classical. I was quite impressed because it seemed that all the greats of Western civilization, plus a few from other civilizations, were represented here.
Outside is the bronze Court of Neptune fountain, featuring Neptune, his son, and several sea nymphs. It looks wonderful lit up at night.
You're not allowed to take pictures inside, so I bought a book in the gift shop to remember it by. This is a picture I took of a page in my book, to give you a peek at the inside.
The Library of Congress was originally founded as a research library for the United States Congress in 1800, its original collection were the books of the 3d U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. It used to be that all authors seeking American copyright had to submit two copies of the work to the Library. They don't do that anymore, but copies of many books published in the U.S. still arrive at the Library regularly. It contains many important books and collections, such as a Gutenberg Bible.
The library itself is in three buildings in Washington, DC. With over 115 million items, it is one of the largest libraries in the history of the world. Only the British Library, which contains over 150 million items, has more stuff.
The library is open to the general public for academic research, and runs tours for visitors. Only people with a permit can enter the reading room and access the collection.
While it is true that the National Library is the largest library in the world with over 90 million archived materials and serves as the research arm of the United States Congress, even these impressive facts miss the sheer beauty of the building's exquisite interior. As the oldest federal cultural institution it has a storied past from Thomas Jefferson selling his massive personal collection of books to the United States to give the then new enterprise a massive boost to losing over half of its collection to a massive fire some 50 years after its inception. Originally part of the Congressional building of the day, it was decided to build it a separate and much safer (read, fire-proof) house of its own.
A good friend who had recently visited DC prior to us suggested we not miss this national treasure and she was very much right. It was perhaps our favorite place in DC. It's a magnificent and elegant building and one cannot help being in awe walking around its various rooms and hallways. It's one of the more impressive man made things I have seen in the US. It is open to the public for free and you can even use its resources by applying for a free library card. Free tours are even given. Amazing.
Said to be the largest library in the world, you cannot possibly see all of the Library of Congress but we did enjoy the Jefferson Building which is the original library built around the end of the 19th C. There are some interesting displays on American history including some on entertainers like Bob Hope and of course one of their prizes is a Gutenberg Bible from the 15th C. However, I regard the building itself as the most appealing sight. I will not try to describe all the features as I think the photos speak better than me but there are several statues of the Minerva, the Greek goddess of wisdom and the arts. as well as defensive war.
Admission is free and tours are available. Great Hall is open Mon-Sat 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Visitor's center and galleries open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
. . . Knowledge Wherewith the Wing We Fly to Heaven."
Once housed in the Capitol building, America's national library was destroyed in 1814 when the British burned the Capitol during the War of 1812. As a replacement for what was lost, Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library to the People, and the Library of Congress as we now know it was born. The building where the library is now housed was built in 1886, directly across the street from the Capitol. It is an Italian Renaissance style building called by some the most beautiful building in America, and I would have to agree. It is in fact the most beautiful building I have ever seen. Its beauty takes one's breath away.
The Library of Congress serves as the warehouse for the National Copyright Office, housing 2 copies of everything that has ever been copywritten in the United States. The collections are free and open to use by anyone over the age of 18, though some collections can be seen by appointment only.
On display to the public in the Library is a Guttenburg Bible, Alexander Graham Bell's notebook from when he invented the telephone, and George Washington's inaugeral papers to name only a few items. Free tours of the building are offered several times a day. I hightly recommend taking one. I found my whole experience there to be awe inspiring.
What a absolutely beautiful building. The wall and ceiling paintings and sculptures carved into the pillars and stairways are stunning. What is great about this building is it belongs to US Congress and any U.S. citizen. Yet, it is Free for everyone to get in and explore pretty much the whole building. I highly suggest you take one of their FREE tours because you learn so much from them and will make sure you see the items that are most significant, although it was all wonderful. There are many wonderful rooms with significant exhibits such as Exporing The Early Americas (the first map with the name America on it), Bob Hope Exhibit (brings back some wonderful memories of a great man), The Creating The United STates Constitution(Jefferson Book Collection ~Awesome), and one that touches my heart is The Last Full Measure (Civil War ambrotype and tintype photographs). Oh, you get to peak from above the library room, which by the way, anyone can get a library card too;)
You will have to go through security screening in and out!
We did not have enough time to visit the Library in detail. However, we took a rest from hiking and spent time to marvel at its architecture.
Library of Congress is situated a block east of the Capitol and has about 100 million items, including 26 million books, 36 million manuscripts and maps, photographs, sheet music and musical instruments. It is the largest library in the world. Books from the Library were used to light the 1814 Capitol fire, after which President Jefferson sold his collection to the library to get the numbers back up. The best part of the library is the 1997 Jefferson Building, with its vaulted ceilings and ornate decorations.
The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, and it serves as the research arm of Congress. It is also the largest library in the world, with more than 126 million items on approximately 530 miles of bookshelves. The collections include nearly 19 million books, 2.6 million recordings, 12 million photographs, 4.8 million maps, and 56 million manuscripts.
My family and I, drove down to Washington with the mind to tour the Library of Congress and City Hall. It was an incredibly hot day, so we did not spend much time outside except walking from the parking garage to the Library. We got there an hour and a half before the library was due to close. We went through security and checked with the front desk for information on where and how to get library cards. Mark and I had agreed we would get the library cards before we could tour, and so we did. That part was interesting in itself. Apparently if you want a library card you have to walk almost a quarter mile (perhaps a little exaggerated) to the Madison Building. Once we were there though, the process was simple; show a valid identification (passport or drivers license), get paperwork to fill in, proceed to step two (fill out a computer information form and submit), step three get photo taken and card is issued. The team at the Madison building was incredibly efficient and pleasant except for the gentleman who took my photo, he looked like he did not like his job much or did not like my look. I could not tell which one it was, but I could care less.
The library of congress is the mecca of all books. Instituted for Congress in 1800, it remains the single most powerful tool for Congress. Only Supreme Court Justices, members of Congress, high ranking members of government and Library employees can check out books. It is the congressional library and has all books ever published; at least that is what they say. It has an incredible collection of books that are available upon request. Access to the main reading rooms is restricted to researchers and patrons who have access. Access is by having a library card issued by the library.
Specialty books like the collection of Bibles intrigued me greatly. Mark and I have planned to return every so often until we have seen all sections of the library. Exhibits like Jefferson’s library and Carl Jung’s Red book are nothing short of outstanding!
Every floor, ceiling and wall in the library is a work of art. I felt like I was in the Sistine Chapel or the Basilica of St. Peters in Rome literally; that’s how beautiful the library is. One gets that feeling of new yet old. It is by far the most beautiful building interior I have seen in all of Washington, and I have seen quite a few. The art on the walls and different quotes on the walls of the upper floor are fascinating.
With library cards in hand, we had access to the main reading room, not just seeing it through sound proof glass on the balcony above. Because we had little ones with us, we did not see much or stay to read. We have planned a three hour visit next time; I cannot wait to read some of the old bibles and visit the rare books section of the library. The depth of the collection it represents makes this library a work to marvel at. Tours are available at no fee, take time to go on one of them to get the best out of your visit. It is a big library with so much to see and read.
Because it is a library, I can see why many tourists would overlook it. But it is not just any library, it is ‘the’ library; the national treasure of the United States. It is intriguing, fascinating, marvelous, beautiful, weird (I heard someone refer to it so), you will love it. No photographs allowed in the reading rooms.
Admittance is Free!
Operating Hours: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
During the War of 1812, the British Army took Washington and burned it. The new library, built in 1800, was not spared. However, after the war former President Thomas Jefferson bequeathed his personal book collection to the new, rebuilt library. These 6,487 volumes outnumbered those of the original library.
So began the world's largest library. It now comprises over 29 million books, 12 million photographs, 58 million manuscripts, 2.7 million recordings, and much more.
It's housed in the Thomas Jefferson Building, completed in 1897. It was restored in 1984. This imposing structure is beautiful inside and out. Some parts are closed to the public, reserved for official use only. But one can visit most of the building, including the magnificent Great Hall.
Be sure the visit some of the exhibits, such as the Bob Hope exhibit and the collection of cartoons by Herb Block.
My first impression when we stepped into the Library of Congress (which became the Thomas Jefferson Building in 1980) was that I had just stepped into a European castle, for such is the beauty of its Great Hall. Completed in 1894, the amazing Beaux-Arts building was built to house the Congress research library, which at that time had grown from an initial collection of 740 volumes to include about 840,000 items. Today, it houses a total of 32 million books, which makes it the second largest library in the world (the British Library comes in first). But the library's collection doesn't end there: it also holds the largest rare books collection in North America, including a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, and over 80 million manuscripts, maps, newspaper copies, photos, films, audio records, comic books, sheets of music, and architectural drawings. Located behind the Capitol, the rather stern facade of the library did not lead me to expect such an impressive interior! Guided tours of the library are offered daily, but visitors are also welcome to walk around the Great Halland enjoy its architecture and exhibitions. Visitors can also take a look at the library's beautiful main reading room. The literature student in me thought I had died and gone to heaven!