The Library of Congress may not be at the top of your list when spending just 24 hours in Washington D.C., but it is worth the visit to experience the rich history of our country through our most important archives.
The magnificent architecture of the Library of Congress stands out among all other buildings in the Nation's Capitol, with its ornate columns, timeless Greco-Roman architecture, and traditional painted ceilings, making it look anything but a library.
An act of Congress established the Library of Congress in the 1800s following a bill that President John Adams signed transferring the location of the Nation's Capital from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.
Comprised of the Thomas Jefferson Building, The James Madison Memorial Building, and the John Adams Building, the Library of Congress holds the most treasured archives, both old and new.
Originally located within the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress was burnt down in 1814 when invading British troops set the Capitol Building on fire. However, President Thomas Jefferson began a new library by donating thousands of books he'd collected for 50 years. Today, the Thomas Jefferson Building commemorates the original library created by the president.
As the main building of the library, the Thomas Jefferson Building is the most visited by tourists. Its design highlights Greek and Roman gods and mythological characters, depicted through architecture and artwork. Tours are offered to learn about the Guilded Age of design and how this building was created to become part of the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress serves as a research library for the U.S. It holds a catalog of 32 million books and 61 million manuscripts in 470 languages, being the largest collection of rare books. It also holds a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a Guttenburg Bible, 1 million U.S. government publications, and 1 million issues of world newspaper archives, spanning the past 3 centuries. Additionally, there are archives of movies, film, and music.
Whether you are pressed for time during your visit or would like to spend more time exploring the Library of Congress, there is so much to see. There are guided tours, exhibitions, lectures, reading rooms, and even dining options that overlook Capitol Hill. So make the most of your visit and learn the history of our country!
Cover image by Brandon Kopp, Flickr Images.