I think it may be almost a sin that I live in the DC Metropolitan area and I'd never been to the Library of Congress... (one of eleven bureaucratic agencies that directly responds to the Legislative branch, only.) Until today.
I took a day to be a tourist and see what the LOC had to offer. The primary reason is, well... primary... sources, that is.
I have used the LOC for many different assignments over the years, but I have noticed that the user interface hasn't updated since like 2006. And I find the website difficult to use. So I figured I needed something to motivate my use of the LOC resources
There is a retired colleague of mine who works with the LOC in some capacity to connect educators with the thousands and thousands of references within the LOC's catalogs. At her (open) invitation, I arrived to a Capitol vicinity in the midst midst a snow squall that made DC and the Capitol almost... pastoral.
Anyways, I was among students, educators, and researchers for the day. And it was fun. First of all... I gots me my own LOC library card so I can hold TJ's very own library. No joke. I just have to ask. Me. Holding something that TJ held (just make sure I find the books with the green ribbons in them; 1/3rd of his original library is all that remains due to a tragic chimney fire.) makes the trip worth the effort. And, the library card is free! Yippy! Just stop off at the Madison building first in Room 140.
The building is the most gorgeous building in DC. It is filled to the brim with amazing mosaics, murals, stained glass, architecture, and statutes. Like these... A government mural and an amazing mosaic of Minerva to the main reading room. Gorgeous. If you're far away and ready to plan your trip, take a virtual tour.
Other than my excitement over seeing all of these amazing historical finds, I went up to the Children's Literature Room to see what they had by way of primary resources. While not all of it is completely applicable to my content... (some of it took a stretch... but I was struck by the fact that much of the readers that were published to teach young children to read were reflective of truly American concepts... like religious themes, (interesting there because it has been said that the reformation influenced democracy in religion, and in turn called for democratization in secular affairs)... which were the literate masses new religious alter screens and moral plays... or a pastoral life as I witnessed in a reader published in South Carolina, 1863, and not about war and strife)
I was totally into a little book that is not a digitized item for its totally amazing insight into what civic virtues were back in the early 1800s. Enjoy this little treat.
So, this summer I intend on going back with my little kids and by myself to do some more digging... with my new library card!!! I really want to find out what political philosophy books Jefferson had in his library... specifically if he read Xenophon's Cyropeadia... one of my favorites. And dig around in some of the drafts of the Declaration and maybe the Constitution... :) Oh, and don't think me strange for taking pictures... you can bring your camera and take pictures of whatever your heart desires. Straight from a librarian's mouth!
Photo via Flickr/Ted Eytan