Library of Congress

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Tragedy or Comedy [pinit]

Library of Congress
Tragedy or Comedy – © Copyright 2012 by William Beem
 Do you know what attracted me to this view of the interior of the Library of Congress? It’s all in the frame, but I’ll point out the three elements. The first is the sign at the base of the stairs prohibiting photography.  Apparently, you’d not permitted to take photos in the Grand Reading Room of the Library of Congress.  That sucks, because I’ve seen some beautiful photos that other people managed to sneak of that room.  It lives up to its “grand” name.

The other two reasons are above the columns. There’s a depiction of Tragedy on the left and Comedy on the right.  It seemed a fitting question about Congress as a whole, but also about the prohibition against photography in the Grand Reading Room. You see, there’s this legal notion that you don’t have an expectation of privacy in a public place. The Grand Reading Room in the Library of Congress is definitely open to the public.  Yet, the minders who keep this place decided that those folks need their privacy and that’s why you can’t take a photograph in there.

I don’t get it.  A public place that’s funded by the taxpayers, but you can’t take a photo because of privacy? That’s either the tragedy or comedy of our government. Perhaps no other Gods could be more appropriate to celebrate above those columns.

The Library of Congress

Most of the Library of Congress was open for me to photograph and the folks who provided my tour were outstanding.  I even got up on the dome to overlook the Capitol building and the rest of the city.  Quite breezy up there and it’s a cramped space to climb, but it was definitely worth doing. I would have loved to have been there at sunrise or sunset, but schedules are what they are.  The only folks who could get me up there were my Congressman or his Chief of Staff. It was really nice that my Congressman’s office took the time to support my request, so I definitely wasn’t complaining about the time.  Most people don’t even get to visit.  See what happens when you ask politely?

The only other thing that I could not photograph in the Library of Congress was a Gutenberg bible on display.  It’s a huge sucker! I have to admit I chuckled a bit at the restriction. They thought photographing the Bible would damage it.  Flash would definitely damage it, but a non-flash photo is passive.  Nothing comes out of your camera when you shoot a photo, so I cannot fathom how that would damage the Bible.  More likely, it’s easier to tell people not to take any photos than to explain why some folks can and  others can’t take a picture.

If you visit Washington, D.C., stop by the Library of Congress to look around.  It’s a magnificent building and the view of the Grand Reading Room is worth the stop – even if you can’t take a photo.

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