Friday, June 11, 2010

The Ultimate Library and Real National Treasure

I love to visit a library, especially the ones that have interesting architecture to the building. One of the most amazing libraries I have ever visited has to be the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Not only is it a sight-seeing stop for tourists, but it is a beautiful building for those inspired by art and architecture. Although it is not a circulating library, it is still a bibliophile's paradise with one of the largest collections of books in the entire country. Their collection of books is currently cataloged at 21,814,555. Cardholders may not be able to check out books, but they can view them while visiting the library. Once I had such a privilege and was able to view in person a letter signed by George Washington. Amazing.

But what a lot of people do not realize is that the Library of Congress is also a museum of sorts. The entire collection boasts of 111,046,531 different items (including books, manuscripts, photographs, music, film, artwork, maps, etc.). Each day employees of the Library of Congress research and study these various pieces so more can be learned for future generations, including how best to preserve them for years to come.

Last night while flipping channels we came upon an episode of the History Channel's Modern Marvels that focused on The Library of Congress titled "The Real National Treasure." I caught only the last 45 minutes of the hour long episode, but what I saw was extremely interesting. I wish I had known about this episode before so I could have caught the whole hour and also posted notice of it here, but at least it can still be viewed after the fact! Isn't technology great?

For those who missed it, check the History Channel as sometimes episodes re-air throughout the month or it may even appear online. (I see they've posted episodes up through the end of May, so it may be a week or two before this particular episode appears.) Of course you can always purchase or request your library purchase the episode through History.com's store.

For more information about Modern Marvels': The Real National Treasure check out the Library of Congress press release. Other links of interest include:

* Modern Marvels: The Real National Treasure (episodes are a couple weeks behind).
* History.com: This Week's Hidden Treasure
* The Library of Congress
* LOC's Book Collection: Library of Congress Online Catalogue
* LOC's Digital Collection: World Digital Library

2 comments:

Carrie said...

That sounds really awesome!

We're currently planning a trip to DC and I have this place on my list of "possibilities." How much of a Must See would you say that it should be for me? =)

S. Mehrens said...

Well, I'd say if you're alreay over by the Capitol for a tour or even the Supreme Court for a visit then you must stop by the Jefferson building of the LOC. It's the most beautiful and is worth a 30 min or so of your time just to view the architecture (you can glance into the main reading room, which you have to have a card to actually enter) and it's breathtaking. Then there's the Bible collection (some really old ones, fascinating) and of course Jefferson's collection (that pic above of the books is fromthe LOC).

If you need a quick bite to eat Union Station has a cafe on the basement level with a variety of places to get food. Bring some cash though as not all take cards. But IMO the total experience is to grab a hot dog or Italian Sausage from a street vendor. ;-)

Oh and if you're going by the White House... there is the main gift shop, which is ok, but I prefer the White House Historical Society gift shop, which is over by the EEOB.