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Can a Building Get Fan Mail?

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I appreciate all of the email feedback I get, both the positive and, yes, even the negative constructive criticism.

I got an email yesterday, however, that was too good not to share it in its entirety, with the author’s permission. And I swear we didn’t pay him to write this:

I just visited the Library of Congress for the first time yesterday [April 21]. It was pouring rain, and I went in through the Madison building to get my Researcher card and came to the Jefferson building through the tunnel. I took care of my business at the Folklife Center, then wandered around to the front from the rear corridors, so I wasn’t ready for the full impact of the front part of the building.

I have traveled a bit – not as much as I’d like, but a bit – and I’ve seen some beautiful things. I’ve never been stunned by the sheer beauty of a place like that in my life. Aside from my son being born and my wife on our wedding day, I have never been moved like that by sheer, stunning beauty.

If it’s possible to fall in love with a building, I may have.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to actually work there. Could a person spend day after day surrounded by so much grace and beauty and not be changed in some subtle, fundamental way? Would it make you more awake to the beauty around you or would it raise your expectations so much that everything would start to feel washed out and empty?

The exhibitions were startlingly well done, too, by the way. I was struck by how sensitively they’d been put together. The Constitution exhibit didn’t shy away from how some people had been failed by our Constitution. (I loved the Native American woman in the AV display describing her contempt for it.) I love that to get to the 16th Century maps, you walked through a really well put together exhibit of Mezoamerican culture. (I particularly liked the description of the extent of the Inca Empire). I loved the touchscreen technology on the monitors scattered around throughout the public area of the building.

The one impression that stays with me is that of the staircase leading up from the tunnel. You come out of a very functional, utilitarian tunnel into a staircase that is very 1920s/30s and as you walk up the marble steps, you feel just the slightest bit off-balance because each step has been worn down by a century or so of people walking on them. There is a feeling of continuity in that which really inspires me.

As I proof-read this letter, I am astonished by the number of times I’ve used the word “love”. I’m a grumpy, curmudgeonly person by nature. I don’t throw the word “love” around casually. Obviously the Library has touched me in some important way.

Thank you.

John Fladd
New Boston, NH

Comments (6)

  1. Can you direct me to a picture of the building that this person found to be so beautiful? I would really like to see it.

  2. Carol M. Highsmith has taken hundreds of photos of the Library, both interior and exterior, and given them to us copyright-free, at this link.

    More about our Highsmith archive here.

  3. There are some really great pictures of the Library of Congress (and specifically of the Thomas Jefferson Building) on flickr.

    Here is one I really liked:

  4. That this “grumpy, curmudgeonly person” was moved to write this letter I think is a testimony to the sheer beauty of this national treasure of a building. Thanks to Matt Raymond and Lis for sharing those photos. Also love that panoramic view of the hall and the staircase. Thanks for this post.

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