Throughout the world, libraries stand as stunning examples of architecture as well as shrines of knowledge. They’re not only keepers of books, but also keepers of items of historic and cultural significance — perhaps none more so than the largest library on the planet: the Library of Congress.
Since 1800, the United States Library of Congress has served as the official research library for members of Congress as well as the de facto national library of the U.S.
The oldest federal institution in the country, it’s an important historical site, and it houses more than 170 million items. These include more than 39 million books and other printed materials available in 470 languages, as well as more than 73 million manuscripts. It’s also home to the largest rare book collection in North America as well as the largest collection of films, legal materials, maps, sheet music and sound recordings. More than 14.8 million photographs and 4.1 million audio recordings are included in its impressive collection.
Out of its three main buildings in Washington, D.C., the Library of Congress’s Thomas Jefferson Building is the oldest and most striking in appearance, featuring frescoes, murals, sculptures and mosaics by more than 50 American artists.
The Main Reading Room is particularly iconic, with giant marble columns around the room topped with allegorical female figures that are 10 feet high and represent different aspects of life and thought: Art, Commerce, History, Law, Philosophy, Poetry, Religion and Science. All the fascinating artwork and shelves upon shelves of books make the Library of Congress one of the most stunning libraries any bookworm can easily get lost in.