Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Library of Congress, in Stone (and Bronze)

The Library of Congress became one of my favorite sources online for historic images. I felt like I knew the LOC. Then I met the real live Library of Congress, situated on Capitol Hill just east of the Capitol dome.I was lucky to have an insider guide to explain the circumstances of its creation in the late 1800s. He said, If you are impressed (as I was) with the exterior you'll be amazed inside! I was.He explained that the project came in under budget, the extra funds used to adorn the building. Craning my neck to take in the mosaics and frescoes within the vaulted halls, stained glass skylight, stone carvings, I thought, Here is our American equal to the incredibly ornate carved stone Hindu temples of India: As those temples stand for the religious and cultural narratives of Hindu mythology, the Library of Congress expounds the moral and intellectual ideals of our American society.
Human scale is manifest not only in the materials and their proportions but throughout the building as human forms carved in stone and bronze: babies with props represent various noble professions, sculpted heads mounted at the keystone of window arches represent various ethnic societies of the world, the busts of great thinkers and an abundance of mythological figures are nestled into the architecture. Each tells the narrative of our American moral and intellectual ideals.

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