Library of Congress

Main Reading Room, Library of Congress – © David H. Enzel, 2024

The Library of Congress in Washington, DC is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, films and video, audio recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections. The Library is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Congress moved to Washington, D.C. in 1800 after holding sessions for eleven years in temporary national capitals in New York City and Philadelphia. Also in 1800, as part of an act of Congress providing for the removal of the new national government from Philadelphia to Washington, President John Adams approved an act of Congress providing $5,000 for books for the use of Congress—the beginning of the Library of Congress.

However, in 1814, the British burned Washington, destroying the Capitol and the small congressional library in its north wing. Former President Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his comprehensive personal library of 6,487 books to rebuild the Library of Congress. Congress accepted his offer in 1815. Jefferson’s concept of universality is the rationale for the comprehensive collecting policies of today’s Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress is among Washington’s top attractions. Every Library of Congress visitor must reserve timed-entry pass. Passes are available here. It’s worth planning ahead as slots fill up.

Sources: Library of Congress, Wikipedia

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