Opening the Book on History at the Library of Congress in DC

The Library of Congress in Washington, DC, the largest library in the world, has a rich history that spans over two centuries. Established in 1800, the library has played a vital role in preserving and promoting knowledge and culture in the United States.  The building is also breathtaking and the main reading room will leave you in awe.

The idea of a national library was first proposed by Thomas Jefferson in the 1780s. Jefferson, who was then serving as the United States ambassador to France, was impressed by the Bibliothèque nationale de France and believed that the United States needed a similar institution to promote learning and scholarship.

The Library of Congress was officially established in 1800, when President John Adams signed an act of Congress that transferred the library of the U.S. Congress to the new institution. The original collection consisted of 740 books and three maps, which were housed in the Capitol Building.

Over the next few decades, the library’s collection grew steadily. In 1814, during the War of 1812, the British burned down the Capitol Building and destroyed many of the library’s books and documents. However, Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his personal library to Congress to help rebuild the collection. Congress accepted the offer, and Jefferson’s library became the foundation of the Library of Congress’s collection.

The library continued to grow throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, adding rare books, manuscripts, and other historical artifacts. In 1897, the library moved to its current location in the Thomas Jefferson Building, which was designed by architect John L. Smithmeyer and completed by Paul J. Pelz.

The library underwent several major expansions and renovations throughout the 20th century, including the construction of a new underground storage facility in the 1990s. Today, the library’s collection includes more 170 million items, including books, manuscripts, priceless photographs, and maps.

The Library of Congress is also home to several important institutions, including the U.S. Copyright Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Law Library of Congress. In recent years, the library has embraced technology to make its collection more accessible to the public, digitizing millions of items and making them available online.

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