Looking at History in Front of Us
As you know, I continue to explore abandoned places along the roadsides of America. Im also continuing to look for “interesting” histories we may not know or may not know well enough, as well as histories that we do know and are right in front of us, where their context may be especially relevant today. For example, the Library of Congress (above) is America’s oldest cultural institution. The concept of knowledge (via a Library for the nation and for the nation's elected representatives) was seen by the founders to be an underpinning to a democracy. Here is the story:
The Library of Congress, Reading Room, Washington DC
A place for research and rational thought. The Library of Congress serves as both legislative library for the American Congress and national library for the American people. It is America’s first and oldest cultural institution and occupies a unique place in American civilization. The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world with more than 170 million items.
James Madison is credited with the idea of wanting to create a national library for the people and their representatives. Madison once stated “knowledge would forever govern ignorance.”
The Library was shaped primarily by the philosophy and ideas of its principal founder, Thomas Jefferson, who believed that a democratic legislature needed information and ideas in all subjects to do its work. Its' underpinning was the belief that information and knowledge are essential to a democracy--for legislators and citizens alike.
Atop the large marble columns are statues representing eight categories of knowledge, each considered symbolic of civilized life and thought. Their titles are inscribed in gilt letters on a tablet in the frieze below them. The symbolic statues are: Philosophy, Art, History, Commerce, Religion, Science, Law and Poetry (seen here, left to right, are Poetry, Philosophy, Art). Sixteen bronze statues set along the balustrade of the galleries represent men renowned for their accomplishments in the categories of knowledge and activity described above. The seals of the states of the union, at the time the Jefferson Building was constructed, are contained in the massive semicircular stained-glass windows that surround the Main Reading Room.