They are Fantastic! I've worked at some and been to MANY, but I'm often told "I never knew this was here!"
Well, it's time to change that.
No, the Library of Congress isn’t really off the beaten path, but when you think about hot spots in DC, it really doesn’t seem to come up. It doesn’t have the Declaration of Independence (National Archives), or a giant statue of Lincoln (Lincoln Memorial), or a governing body (White House, Congress, Supreme Court), or even Dorthy’s Shoes (Smithsonian’s Museum of American History).It does have a copy of everything ever printed in the United States. Which is not bad.
Nope, that’s not the Library of Congress, that is the Capital Building, which houses Congress. It use to hold the library, until the first Capital building was ransacked and burned by the English. Then the building was rebuilt, the library collection restarted (starting with Thomas Jefferson’s own collection) and there it stayed until the flood of materials from the 1870 Copy Write Law (which required all copyright applicants to send two copies of their work to the Library. Someone didn’t think that through) over whelmed the space the library had in the new building. They finally got a new building in 1886, which is across the street. It is gorgeous.
The Library opened to the public in 1897. And it’s massive. According to their web site they have a “collection of more than 155 million items,” including “more than 35 million cataloged books and other print materials in 460 languages; more than 68 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.” That is a lot of stuff. Even the Smithsonian only has 137 million artifacts, and they have 19 different museums. Ok, museums, galleries and the zoo, but my point stands! The Library of Congress even has one of the few complete Gutenberg Bibles and is one of only three perfect vellum copies to exist. And you can get to see it. It’s sitting right there on the first floor. Why are you still sitting there?