Thursday, February 20, 2014

Beauty & the Book, The Library of Congress, D.C.

At 8 o'clock Monday morning I was standing, freezing cold, on the steps of the Library of Congress, wishing them to open their doors and let me into the wonderfully warm temperatures inside where I could see guard strolling in just a shirt and light jacket. And trousers, of course. I was here with a couple of other die-hards early so we could get inside and take photographs before the hordes arrived. Today was one of 2 days a year when the Reading Room is open to photographers although no tripods are allowed. We could explore the rest of the building beforehand and then be ready to rush the Reading Room as soon as it opened.
The Library of Congress first existed in The Capitol in 1800, as a few volumes bought from Philadelphia, and then occupied various spaces throughout the building until the British burned it down in 1814. Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his own personal library so this was purchased in 1815. A second fire on Christmas Eve 1851 destroyed two thirds of the 6487 books so it was decided a new building had to be found. The Jefferson Building was completed in 1897 with its 23 carat gold plated dome and a guidebook for visitors. It was dubbed the" largest, costliest and safest" library in the world. It was a state of the art structure, using latest technology, and a Temple of the Arts.
The building underwent a huge restoration in 1986. Above shows the Reading Room before work started, and during. The Reading Room reopened in 1991. The Adams Building was built next door to join on to the Jefferson and this was completed in 1939, and then a third building was completed in 1981, the James Madison Memorial Building.
When we were finally allowed in after stringent security checks, like going through an airport, we were free to look around. At first I didn't move because I was spellbound. I've never seen such ornate or extravagant decoration in a building before, or so much intricacy. The color and sculpture, just the vast amount of work that had gone into this building almost bowled me over. I really didn't know which way to walk first or where to point my camera. It is stunningly beautiful. I could go into depth about the various methods of artistic decoration in here but this link will explain much plus additional images.
And here - On These Walls.
A lot of my time was spent looking up, there wasn't a square inch of the building that wasn't decorated with paint, sculpture or mosaics. Marble columns and floors were throughout the building and beautiful lamps or chandeliers hung from the ceilings. Most of my photos are really just documenting what I saw, I could have spent another whole day trying to just take artistic shots. But I only had the morning off work so as soon as the Reading Room was opened I headed for there.
Looking down before we were allowed in.
This decoration was on the carpet throughout the room.
The archives, rows and rows of cards in wooden boxes.
A spiral staircase going to I don't know where, admission was denied.
Around the outside of the circular room were alcoves, many linked by doorways.
Part of the decoration on the domed ceiling. After a couple of hours I was feeling a little burned out. Many more people had arrived including large groups of school kids. The awestruck silence in the beginning gradually grew to loud whispering but now had escalated to hundreds of shrill and chattering voices, not a noise often heard in this majestic room I suppose. This had been an amazing morning and it all felt a little surreal as I walked back to my car.
Just by chance I spotted this perspective of the Capitol and had to snap the photo. Not a view seen too often!

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