LoC Main Reading Room

A Visit to the United States Capitol

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. for a little visit. While there I was able to visit/make my pilgrimage to the Library of Congress and the United States Supreme Court. Two law librarian accomplishments checked off of my bucket list. I was able to visit the Jefferson building of the Library of Congress. The first thing I noticed upon entering the building was the architecture and all of the art on the ceilings. You could have spent most of your time looking up before you ever got a chance to check out the actual exhibits and books.

One of the first things I noticed was the Gutenberg Bible. The librarian in me is always fascinated by old books, particularly this one, since it was the first to be printed using the Gutenberg press. When I looked down I immediately noticed that all of the zodiac signs were on the floor of the Great Hall. There was an exhibit of Thomas Jefferson’s library. The books from Jefferson’s library  were used as the foundation for the Library of Congress. There was also a replica of the oval office as it was when Thomas Jefferson was president.  

I was able to look over into the main reading room from the floor above but then was told that if I had a researcher’s card/library card I could actually go into the reading room. Of course, I inquired about how to get this magical pass. I had to go through a lower level tunnel to the Madison building up one floor and into another room where all I had to do was show an ID and I was issued a card. After getting my card I immediately returned to the Jefferson building and entered the main reading room. So many books so little time. I was not allowed to take pictures in the actual reading room or to bring in my jacket or bag.

Gutenberg Bible
Gutenberg Bible
My library card
My library card
A part of Thomas Jefferson's library
A part of Thomas Jefferson’s library

One exhibit that really stands out in my memory is the Drawing Justice exhibit. This exhibit displayed courtroom sketches from various cases. It was interesting to see the sketches of so many famous and infamous cases. One that really stood out was “The Fear of a Defendant with AIDS in 1984.” In this sketch, all of the court officers and the defendant are wearing a mask because the defendant had just been diagnosed with AIDS prior to the trial. This was in 1984. Here is a link to the image.

I could not leave without visiting the gift shop. The gift shop was located on the lower level of the Jefferson building and was librarian paradise. I managed to get out of there with only a key chain, a bookmark, and a lapel pin.

My visit to the Supreme Court was very short. I only had enough time to pop in and look around the first floor. I was able to get a picture of a very beautiful staircase and also visit the gift shop. I almost bought a gavel but put it back. I was able to pack a lot into the few days that I was in D.C. but really need to go back to see what I missed. Next time I would like to visit when the cherry trees are blossoming.

A staircase at the Supreme Court
A staircase at the Supreme Court

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