|Inside the Capitol|
The Library of Congress
Thomas Jefferson Building
10 First Street, SE
Washington, DC 20540
During this hot, dry summer, it seems hard to remember when I actually resented a rainy day. Our fourth day in DC was one such day. When I left the hotel that morning, the rain had not yet begun to fall, but a quick glance at the sky left little doubt that the morning weather predictions would prove accurate at any moment. I had plans to meet up with a former student and book club member later that evening. By sheer happenstance Ryan was, at the very time of my trip to Washington, completing an internship with a Michigan congressman. (Coincidentally, Ryan is the same bookstore enthusiast who introduced me to the fascinating Mecosta Book Gallery.) We had planned to meet a couple of blocks from the Capitol, and since I had never actually been inside that grand building, I thought it would be a great place to wait out the rain.
|The top of the Capitol Dome|
I enjoyed a couple of pleasant, informative hours in the beautiful and stately building culminating in a guided tour that is the only way by which visitors can actually get a first-hand look at the impressive dome. Now, you might be wondering what my visit to the Capitol has to do with the subject of this post, the Library of Congress. Well, as it turns out, the rain was still coming down at the end of my Capitol tour, and just as I was thinking that I may be spending another few hours there, the tour guide informed us of a very special feature of the building--a tunnel to the Library of Congress. That's right; I could enjoy another visit to the LOC without ever going outside. I immediately headed for the tunnel.
The LOC is a huge place, so you can well imagine that on my first visit, I did not see everything there is to see. I attempted to make up for that on my second visit when, after a walk down a long, magnificent hallway, I entered the Young Readers Center. This is a place designed with children in mind. There are several creative displays and a wide assortment of books available for parents who want to curl up with their kids to read in one of the center's cozy nooks. School groups can schedule special activities, and there is a story time for young children on Fridays. The center staff is eager to provide services, activities, and programs as well as online resources. You can learn more about the Young Readers Center at http://www.read.gov/yrc/#.
The LOC is chock full of displays and exhibits of all varieties. Next on my agenda was an exhibit titled, "Hope for America: Performers, Politics, & Pop Culture." In this case the word "Hope" refers to none other than American icon, Bob Hope. The exhibit is a retrospective of entertainers, politics, and government as well as a tribute to Hope and his long comedy career. It includes personal papers, joke files, and clips from film, radio, and television and features a video introduction by Stephen Colbert highlighting Hope's USO performances and clips from notables like Johnny Carson, David Letterman, and Groucho Marx. It was nostalgic; it was informative; it was entertaining; it was hilarious.
Moving from comedy to music, I next visited an impressive exhibit titled, "Here to Stay, The Legacy of George and Ira Gershwin." There is something quite moving about seeing George Gershwin's own piano up close and personal. I mean his fingers actually touched those keys. How cool is that? In addition to the piano, the Gershwin room includes a typewriter that Ira used to type lyrics as well as a specially made desk at which George composed music. Printed music, lyric sheets, photographs, paintings, and personal correspondence along with a variety of other materials round out the exhibit.
|George Gershwin's piano|
My time was running out, so I had but a few brief moments to visit the "Exploring the Early Americas" exhibit featuring maps, documents, drawings, and artifacts highlighting indigenous Native Americans and their encounters with early European explorers. The history major in me finds this kind of thing simply fascinating.
Of course, when you are in the World's largest library, there will never be enough time to see everything, so there are plenty of displays left for me to see on my next trip.
My visit was rounded out with a final stop at the LOC store where I purchased a book bag, some t-shirts, pens, note pads, and a bookmark featuring the Thomas Jefferson quote, "I cannot live without books." I agree with President Jefferson; books, libraries, and bookstores are all pretty special. And so was my visit to the Library of Congress, the World's largest library.