Before this D.C. trip, I knew that the Library of Congress was one of the largest libraries in the world, but that was about the extent of my knowledge. Prior to arriving at the building (which is seriously impressive looking from the outside btw), W- informed me that there is a reading room where librarians bring books for patrons to read, but only if they have a special identification card. Visitors to the Library of Congress can’t enter the reading room, but there is a glass observation room on the second floor where you can peer into the room in question.
Even if you only have 10min to spare, I highly recommend entering the Library of Congress just to take in the art and architecture in the main halls. If you have questions about specific pieces or sections of the room, there are several digital interactive displays to give you more information.
When W- and I were at the Library, they had several exhibits open to the public. The first was the Thomas Jefferson Library. After the British burned the Capitol during the War of 1812, Jefferson sold his personal library to Congress for a little under $24,000. However, a second fire in 1851 destroyed the majority of the books he had donated. In recent years, the Library of Congress has been working on “restoring” Jefferson’s collection by looking for the same volumes which were destroyed in the fire, specifically the same year, edition, print, etc. The exhibit in today’s Library is color-coded so visitors can tell which volumes are original to the Jefferson collection and which are the replacements. They also have empty spots to indicate which volumes they’re still looking for. I’m a massive bibliophile, so to see all of those old books in one place, made me ridiculously happy. I could have easily stayed in that room all day long.
Some of the other exhibits we visited were:
Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I
Exploring the Americas: The Jay I. Kislak Collection
Mapping a Growing Nation: From Independence to Statehood
Hope for America: Performers, Politics and Pop Culture