Today I went to the Library of Congress and it made me cry twice.
My first cry was when we watched the video about all the cool stuff that’s in the LOC. The first map with the word America on it! A Gutenberg bible! A picture book of Mother Goose printed in the depression that had fantastic colors. I started to get choked up and excited about the breadth of knowledge all gathered in one place. I loved how proud and enthusiastic the librarians were. The tour was full! Everyone wanted to see the library!
Then we went out on the second floor and looked at all the paintings, which glorify the march of knowledge through history, and have all sorts of symbolic representation of things like Knowledge and Science and Literature. I can just eat that stuff up. I love it. We are smart! We love to learn! What a beautiful country!
The tour guide took us to see the exhibit of Jefferson’s library. His library was once the core of the LOC collection. Unfortunately, much of it was destroyed in a fire. Now the library is trying to recreate it. His books were arranged in a circle, and there was a cool system of ribbons to tell you if you were looking at something originally from his library, something that had been purchased later, or a placeholder for a book they were still looking for. I got to stand in the middle of all these books, and enjoy being at the center of ordered knowledge, in attractive leather bindings.
After the tour, I went back up to the second floor to see the exhibit on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was in the room right in front of Jefferson’s library, and I’d caught a glimpse of some Freedom Rider ephemera that looked cool.
The exhibit was really powerful. This is the second time that I cried at the LOC today. There were letters and photos of civil rights leaders, but there were also a lot of items that detailed our country’s history of atrocities.
Following this exploration of civil rights, the exhibit dumped me back out in that beautiful cocoon of books created by the slaveholder Thomas Jefferson.
(This is a bill of sale for a person, from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison).
*Sorry about the photos. I’m the world’s worst photographer.