Theme Week Washington, D.C. – Library of Congress

Wednesday, 12 March 2014 - 01:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Museums, Exhibitions, Opera Houses, Theaters, Libraries

Thomas Jefferson Building © Carol M. Highsmith/cc-by-sa-3.0

Thomas Jefferson Building © Carol M. Highsmith/cc-by-sa-3.0

The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, the de facto national library of the United States of America, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in four buildings in Washington, D.C., as well as the Packard Campus in Culpeper, Virginia, it is one of the two largest libraries in the world by shelf space and number of books, the other being The British Library. The head of the Library is the Librarian of Congress, currently James H. Billington.

The Library’s primary mission is researching inquiries made by members of Congress through the establishment of a “Congressional Research Service“, established 1914. Although it is open to the public, only Library employees, Senators, Representatives as Members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, Secretaries of Executive Departments in the President’s Cabinet, and other high-ranking government officials may check out books and materials. As the de facto national library of the United States, the Library of Congress promotes literacy and American literature through projects such as the American Folklife Center, American Memory, Center for the Book and Poet Laureate.

The Library of Congress was instituted for the Congress of the United States when it moved in April 1800, after sitting for eleven years in the temporary capitals of New York City and Philadelphia. Most of the original collection had been destroyed by the disastrous fire during the War of 1812 after the crushing defeat at the Battle of Bladensburg to the northeast of the Capital. After the war, in 1815, former 3rd President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) sold 6,487 books (his entire personal collection) from his estate of Monticello near Charlottesville, Virginia to the Congress of the United States and the Nation for the reconstituting of a new Library of Congress.

Thomas Jefferson Building © Carol M. Highsmith/cc-by-sa-3.0 James Madison Memorial Building © Carol M. Highsmith/cc-by-sa-3.0 John Adams Building © aoc.gov Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia © loc.gov Thomas Jefferson Building - Great Hall © Carol M. Highsmith Thomas Jefferson Building © Carol M. Highsmith/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia © loc.gov
After a period of decline during the mid-19th century, another disaster of fire struck the Library in 1851, in its Capitol chambers, again destroying a large amount of the collection, including many of Jefferson’s books. The Library of Congress then began to grow rapidly in both size and importance after the American Civil War and a campaign to purchase replacement copies for volumes that had been burned from other sources, collections and libraries (which had begun to speckle throughout the burgeoning U.S.A.). The Library received the right of transference of all copyrighted works to have two copies deposited of books, maps, illustrations and diagrams printed in the United States. It also began to increase its collections of British (second largest publishers) and European works and then of works published throughout the English-speaking world.

This development culminated in the construction during 1888-1894 of a separate, expansive library building across the street to the southeast from The Capitol. This building was in the “Beaux Arts” architecture style with fine decorations, murals, paintings, marble halls, columns and steps, carved hardwoods and a stained glass dome—all on a scale to match the magnificence of The Capitol itself. Several stories underground of steel and cast iron “stacks” were built beneath the “massive pile”. Fire-proofing precautions were built in, so far as could be done in that era before piped sprinklers, portable fire extinguishers and electronic sensor technology.

During the continued more rapid expansion of the 20th century, the Library of Congress assumed a preeminent public role, becoming a “library of last resort” and expanding its mission for the benefit of researcher, scholars and the American people.

Read more on Library of Congress, Library of Congress – Catalog and Wikipedia Library of Congress (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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