Pattern Play with Library of Congress Mosaics

The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress is reopening to visitors on July 15! Tickets and information on planning your visit are available here.

a set of mosaic patterns from the floor of the Thomas Jefferson building

Mosaic tile floor in the Thomas Jefferson Building, February 21, 2017. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.

Originally constructed and opened to the public in 1897, the Jefferson Building is elaborately decorated by works of art from nearly fifty American painters and sculptors. Among these artworks are ornate mosaics on the walls and floors. If you are able to come and explore, you can use our pathways and tips for parents and caregivers to guide you. Or, for a rainy summer day art project, you can use Library of Congress mosaics with kids as inspiration for a work of art of their own.

First, have children look through images of the Thomas Jefferson building, including mosaics from the floors and ceilings, and choose a pattern from the Minerva mosaic or a floor mosaic, for example.

Then, collect materials, such as foam shapes or squares of construction paper, cardstock, glue, ruler and pencil, graph paper, and markers or colored pencils. You can use the graph paper to sketch a design together, using images in the Library’s collection by photographer Carol Highsmith of an artisan drawing a pattern of a mosaic in preparation for this restoration of a floor mosaic at a hotel in Washington, D.C.

Then use the foam shapes or construction paper to complete the design. To incorporate math, after completing the project count the number of tiles or have kids measure the sides of their design and calculate area (length x width) with a ruler or by counting the squares. Or, before you begin have children measure the tile size, calculate the area of the paper, and determine how many of the squares they will need to complete the project. Enjoy! 

colorful pattern made with foam tiles

A sample mosaic made by the author with her six-year-old daughter

One Comment

  1. Martha
    June 26, 2021 at 2:29 pm

    Nice! :)

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