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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Library of Congress Open House

IMG_2351Twice a year, on Presidents’ Day and Columbus Day, the Library of Congress Main Reading Room in Washington, DC, is open to the public. Having spent a lot of time researching in the stacks and study desks of this exalted institution, I took the opportunity to introduce my kids to the library, the eldest having done investigative work of his own there at the ripe age of 15 when a museum retained his services.

Established in 1800 by an Act of Congress, theIMG_2353 Library of Congress originally was located in the Capitol Building. But in 1814, British troops burned it down. The year 1815 found the Library being re-established with the assistance of Thomas Jefferson who suggested his collection of almost 6,500 books. He was compensated $24,000.

Today, the Library of Congress contains books, as well as manuscripts, films, maps, and so much more. There are 130 million items in over 460 languages.

IMG_2370Entering the Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson Building took my kids’ breath away for starters. The Italian Renaissance style permeates throughout and they felt as though they were in Europe. Mosaic floors, marble staircases, and symbolism galore combined to earn me some brownie points in their estimation. Two Bibles dating from the mid 1450s, one handwritten on vellum (animal skin) and the other printed with movable type usher one toward the Main Reading IMG_2354Room.

Once inside, I emphasized how privileged they were to glimpse the reading desks where researchers camp for many hours waiting for books to arrive. I was a step above these plebians, possessing a study shelf reserved specifically for me. Books would be placed there in anticipation of my arrival, whereas the average person might need hours for a book to be delivered to their desk.

Not that average people were welcomed at the Library of Congress anymore. Currently, it was open to serious researchers, with even Ph.D. candidates often turned-away.

IMG_2377I hailed from the days when street people often camped out there in all of their odiferous glory, mumbling to themselves and generally irritating those with work to do.

It was fun to return with the family, to look around and notice art and architectural detail, to photograph and talk and do all of the unlibrary-like activities generally forbidden. So many professional photographers flooded the usually off-limits Main Reading Room.

But on a regular day, the overlook from the Mezzanine can run a close second, along with exhibits of all sorts surrounding.   Good for an hour or two of pleasant diversion on a snowy winter day, go if you have the chance.


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