The Library of Congress

Two times a year, the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. opens its doors to the general public and photographers. A special event where one can enter into the Main Reading Room and admire the spectacular interior of one of the most incredible buildings.


President John Adams signed a bill in 1800 to begin a library for the use of Congress. A small library, but great things happen from small beginnings.

But then in August, 1814 the British came and burned and pillaged the Capitol building and its small holdings. Within a month, Thomas Jefferson offered his extensive library of nearly 6500 books that ranged from philosophy to science. A collection that took him nearly 50 years to build, this collection became the foundation for today’s Library of Congress.

The Thomas Jefferson collection began the belief that all literature and written works relevant to America should be included in the collection. One way the library began its extensive collection of American works is due to the Copyright law of 1870 where all copyright applicants were to submit two pieces of their work.

The need for a new library became clear in the late 1800’s and in 1886 construction began. Built in the style of the Italian Renaissance, the library was completed and opened on November 1, 1897. With 50 American artists and craftsman, the interior of the library is truly stunning. From the mosaic or tiled floors to the elaborate stone work and painted ceilings. This building has been heralded as “the largest, the costliest, and the safest” library in the world.

Walk with me into the Thomas Jefferson building and be mesmerized with the stunning beauty and incredible artwork wherever the eye can see. Entering into the ground floor, two white marbled flights of stairs are taken towards the main floor. A small alcove first greets visitors, just a hint of the artwork to come.

And the grand hall which is guaranteed to take your breath away at first glance. So much detail that one can only stand and stare for a really long time.



The detail in just the grand hall itself will keep one mesmerized for days. But yet, there is so much more to explore. For today, we will spend the time wandering around the balcony and staircases of the grand hall before entering in to the Main Reading Room.

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26 replies »

  1. Lovely set, I can relate to this as a couple of years ago, this old man returned to school and one of my core classes was humanities, where we studied architecture in different times and era’s.

  2. Lord, that is glorious. It’s a stunning building before you even get inside. I didn’t know – or remember perhaps – about it being started with Jefferson’s own collection, that’s an amazing detail. I can only imagine holding the books and thinking back to the time when they were his. Nice choices in pictures to share, I’ll bet you have tons what with there being so much to see. Thanks for sharing when we can’t all make it there for those couple of days. šŸ™‚

    You know last I knew the LOC does not accept self-published books YET. When the day comes I’m sending mine. šŸ˜‰

    • I had a hard time photographing as first I just wanted to take it in with my eyes and spirit. This building has such an alive and strong spirit. Filled with hope and love. It was like going to the best church of libraries in the world. Deserving of worship.

      Great vignette about the Jefferson collection too. I didn’t know any of this, and really was quite naive about the library in general.

      Can you imagine if they opened up their collections for self-published books? Yikes! Thankfully, the internet can house all of that now.

      My father, the anthropologist does have all his printed works in the library and also was the Director of the Latin American division at the library for the last four years of his young life. Cool right?

      • I imagine it is hard to photograph, like so many other things, and take you real-time eyes off of what’s in front of you. Church of libraries, interesting take on it šŸ˜€

        Oh dear if they opened it to self-published books I fear what would happen because there are so so many and not all of them are deserving to be in the “church of libraries” if I may say so, and say so humbly.

        That’s very cool that your dad’s work is in there and even cooler that he was the director of LA division. Sounds like he was an interesting guy in his own right. Wow, what a place to work!

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