One of the things on my Washington D.C. Must-Do-List was making a stop at the Library of Congress, a feat I was able to accomplish this past week. I had been to a couple of trainings in the Library of Congress during the first few weeks of my internship, but they were in the James Madison Memorial Building not the Thomas Jefferson Building.
Fun Fact: The Library of Congress is actually housed in three buildings throughout the Capitol Complex, Thomas Jefferson Building, John Adams Building, and James Madison Memorial Building. And prior to 1897 the Library of Congress (LOC) was located in the actual Capitol building. Here is a link for historical information on the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/loc/walls/history.html
The Thomas Jefferson Building houses the Main Reading Room, a prominent feature in the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and probably the most well known “library” in America. As I made my way through a maze of corridors that felt never-ending in search of the Main Reading Room I came across four amazing exhibits.
Located in the Graphic Arts Galleries (Herblock Gallery and Caroline and Erwin Swann Memorial Exhibition) the first exhibit explored the rise and evolution of editorial cartoons through the work of Herbert L. Block, a famous cartoonist from the 1950s. Through an archway is the Swann Exhibit, a collection exploring the diversity of cartooning from slapstick to political and everything in-between. Down the hall was Here to Stay: The Legacy of George and Ira Gershwin, a phenomenal exhibit for those of you who love musical theater and film from the first half of the twentieth century. The Gershwin exhibit is followed by Hope for America: Performers, Politics, and Pop Culture, with a funny film introduction by Stephen Colbert.
Links to Exhibit Overviews
Here to Stay: unfortunately there is no link for further information on this exhibit
Hope for America: http://myloc.gov/Exhibitions/hopeforamerica/Pages/Overview.aspx
After stopping off at these exhibits I finally made my way to the correct floor, exited the elevator, made a couple of turns and found myself staring at the circulation desk of the Main Reading Room.
I had to stop for a moment as I looked up and was left breathless. Sculptures, plaques, stained glass, busts, the massive marble columns. It is truly unbelievable. My attention was immediately drawn to the eight marble plaques written with gold lettering identifying the pillars of knowledge; Philosophy, Art, History, Commerce, Religion, Science, Law and Poetry. Each pillar is expressed through a famous quote and an artistic rendering of each pillar of knowledge in statue form. In the spaces between the eight marble columns and pillars of knowledge are sixteen bronze statues. Each pillar of knowledge is represented by two men in each category as the most accomplished in their respective fields.
My description cannot do this room justice. Here is a link to information on the eight pillars of knowledge. A must read!
Simply breathtaking. Do not pass this up if you are in DC.