The following is a guest post by Katherine Blood, Curator of Fine Prints.
American author Dan Brown has famously described the Library of Congress Main Reading Room as the most beautiful room in Washington, D.C. (The Lost Symbol). While it is routinely open to researchers, drop-in visitors had the rare treat of photographing this inspiring space during our Spring Open House on President’s Day. We invited those with cameras in tow to share their images on the Library’s Flickr site. Selected favorites from participants appear in three galleries called LOC Open House 2013 Spring.
A number of photographers trained their lenses skyward to capture the Main Reading Room’s spectacular domed ceiling. Others focused on specific artworks, including the dome’s signature allegorical painting by Edwin Blashfield (see if you can spot his idealized portrait of Abraham Lincoln in the Flickr galleries). Colorful books on alcove shelves were another favorite subject along with the Library’s card catalog, which garnered shots of wooden drawers scarred with use, hand-written entries, and ad hoc researchers thumbing through these vast indexes.
As a staff member who knows and loves this space well, I was impressed by how the participating photographers collectively showcased not only the grandeur of the Main Reading Room’s art and architecture, but also the sense you get there of a living think tank where old ideas can be explored and new ideas conceived.
- Take a virtual tour of the Main Reading Room to view its art and architecture.
- View more Library of Congress Flickr galleries.
- Explore an overview of resources for researching the art and architecture of the Library of Congress Jefferson Building.
- Watch a video about coming to do research in the Library’s Main Reading Room