top of page

Library or museum? New plans for the Library of Congress

"Hayden is making good on her promise to throw open the doors of America’s “palace of knowledge”

The official research library of the United States Congress stands majestically atop Capitol Hill, its copper dome protecting the enormous and gorgeous Main Reading Room below. The library was established in 1800 and the entire personal library of Thomas Jefferson was an early acquisition. The library initially was housed in the U.S. Capitol building but construction of a separate and much larger facility across the street began in 1884. It opened in 1897 and was renamed the Thomas Jefferson building in 1980, as a number of additional building were constructed throughout the 20th century to house the library's growing collections.

While the library is open to the public for research purposes, many visitors to Washington, DC like to tour the facility largely to focus on its elaborate architectural design in the Beaux-Arts style. (The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965; the 2008 photo of the Main Reading Room by Carol M. Highsmith is in the public domain). Now, plans are being developed to enhance its function as a museum and tourist destination in addition to its academic research role.


The Library of Congress wants to attract more visitors? Will that undermine its mission?

By Peggy McGlone

The Washington Post

March 9, 2019

And while you're here, take a look at other historic libraries around the world!

Visit 15 of the Oldest Libraries in the World (by Book Riot)

50 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World (by Best Value Schools)

bottom of page