Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

October 14, 1997

New Exhibition Celebrates Centennial of the Opening of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building

When the original Library of Congress building opened on a rainy Monday morning, Nov. 1, 1897, its grand Italian Renaissance facade and its elaborately decorated interior spaces set it apart from any other public structure in the United States in existence at that time. Immediately upon its opening, this new national "temple of art" met with overwhelming approval from both Congress and the American public.

A new exhibition that opens in the Library's Great Hall on Nov. 4 marks the centennial of the opening of the building (named after Thomas Jefferson in 1980) and explores the excitement that the new Library of Congress building generated during its first decades as the largest and most ornately embellished library building in the world. Called "The Thomas Jefferson Building: Book Palace of the American People," the exhibition will remain on view through April 30, 1998.

Many of the 165 items on display are from the private collections of Library of Congress employees, who continue to take great pride in what postcards at the time called "the world's most beautiful building." The eclectic assortment includes paintings, mirrors, trinket boxes, scissors, letter openers, watch fobs, buttonhooks, trays, paperweights, napkin rings, plates, cups and saucers, spoons, plaques and pillows -- all produced around the time when the building first opened.

The exhibition is divided into three sections: "The Building Opens," which includes prints, stereographic views, and photographs of the new structure, as well as accounts and illustrations from Harper's Weekly, The Century, and other contemporary periodicals; "The New Library at Work," which displays copies of photographs of various Library offices from an exhibition at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis as well as equipment used during the Library's early years, particularly in the Copyright Office; and "Souvenir Objects Showing the Library," which features souvenir items and contemporary advertisements.

In addition to a checklist of items displayed, the exhibition is accompanied by a brochure that includes an essay, "Book Palace of the American People: A Brief History of the Thomas Jefferson Building," by John Y. Cole, Director of the Center for the Book, who, with Frank Evina of the Copyright Office, served as an adviser to the Interpretive Programs Office in organizing the display. Martha Hopkins of the Interpretive Programs Office is the Exhibit Director.

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PR 97-175
ISSN 0731-3527

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