Thursday, February 21, 2013

Presidents' Day at the Library of Congress

Americans celebrate the Presidents' Day every third Monday of February to celebrate the birthdays of President George Washington and President Abraham Lincoln. It used to be called President's Day celebrating the birthday of President GW, but later on they made it a bit generic to include Abe. I enjoyed this holiday because the Library of Congress opened the doors of its Main Reading Room to the public for photography. On normal days, photography is not allowed.

The Library of Congress is literally the library of the American Congress. Only congressmen and their staff may borrow books from the collections. But aside from being the world's largest library, it also houses various pieces of history such as The Giant Bible of Mainz and The Gutenburg Bible.

Since it is a national holiday, I went to the library with my supervisor and a fellow student. who says graduate school is not fun? The library has three buildings but we only explored the Thomas Jefferson Building, named after the U.S. president who declared that he could not live without books. This president offered his personal library to the congress in 1815 after the British troops burned down the new Capitol building. Unfortunately, two-thirds of his collection was destroyed in another fire later on. to date, the library houses the Thomas Jefferson Library exhibit showcasing the remaining books from the original acquisition.

The library has many curious fixtures, such as the original light bulbs donated by Thomas Edison for the opening of The Great Hall in 1897, Italian rennaisance architecture inspired marble sculture by Philip Martiny (they say that the hall was patterned after the Paris Opera House), a tile mosaic of Minerva with a list of subjects that she wants to study (and economics is one of them <3) among others.

It was an overwhelming experience and everyone should see this place. Here are some photos but I truly believe that these pictures do not do justice to the real thing.

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