Saturday, April 18, 2015

Society Saturday - Touring the Library of Congress

At the Annual Rendezvous Banquet of the Women Descendants of the Ancient & Honorable Artillery Company, we learned about the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.  Susan Reyburn who is a Senior Writer and Tour Docent there gave us a Virtual Tour.

We learned several interesting facts about the Library of Congress - 
It was started in 1812 as the "Book Palace of the American People".  Unfortunately the collection burned in 1814 when the British burned Washington.  This prompted Thomas Jefferson to sell his private collection of 6500 books to congress for $25000.  

The library continued to be the source of information for Congress and consisted primarily of law books and the like, until 1870 when the National Copyright Act was passed.  This required every item that was copyrighted to have 2 copies submitted to the Library of Congress.  Soon books began piling up everywhere in the room at the Capitol building used for the library.  Therefore, the Jefferson building was built in the 1890's.

It was the first government building built in DC for electricity and has more gold leaf than any other building in the US.  There are several art pieces in the building which were created by artists who had previously helped design the White City of the Columbian Exposition.

Ms. Reyburn showed us several examples of the art and told of all the various symbolism incorporated in it.

Some interesting statistics that she told us were:
There are currently 161 million items in inventory, including 64 million manuscripts, 36 million books, films, maps, and so on.
The US Copyright office receives 10,000 items per day.
The library staff fulfills 600,000 requests from Congress every year, ranging from books to review to full research reports.

The best part is that it is all free and open to the public.

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