Week 29: Library of Congress (Madison Building)


Library mission: The Library’s mission is to support the Congress in fulfilling its constitutional duties and to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.

With paralegal classes less than one week away, it is now time to write about the very last Weekly Museum Visit.

I wanted to involve readers in the last Weekly Museum Visit by putting the choice of museum up to a popular vote. (I have been thinking a lot recently about the idea of having a brand, and wondering whether it matters – in terms of personal career success, in terms of the success of social movements, in terms of interpersonal relationships, and in terms of ethics. At some level, I wondered, does having a brand get in the way of just being an authentic person? That said, I know I would have liked having more of a brand for Weekly Museum Visits. One of my goals in this blog was to inspire response and dialogue, and I would have liked to succeed in that goal more than I actually did.)

After choosing six sites that I could get to easily and that relate to this month’s blog theme, I asked for people to vote for the one they wanted me to visit. Nine people voted, giving varying reasons for their votes. The Library of Congress (Madison Building) won with three votes. Two people voted for the LOC because they are fans of the subject of the current exhibit, Danny Kaye. Another person chose the LOC because it is featured in Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.

So I went to the Madison Building, based on two friends’ fan-hood of Danny Kaye, about whom I did not really know anything. I now know much more though: that Kaye was married to Sylvia Fine (the other half of the exhibit’s subject matter) who wrote many of the songs he performed, that he could clearly enunciate many words or sounds very fast, that he had a varied career as a performer but was must successful singing on stage, and that he did humanitarian work including service as the first ambassador-at-large of UNICEF.

The exhibit is small, but rich with authentic objects, as LOC exhibits often are. Included in the display are photographs, programs from shows, sheet music, movie posters, and drafts of song lyrics in Fine’s handwriting. On a television monitor, visitors can watch short clips of Kaye’s performances.

Madison Hall in the Library of Congress (Madison Building)

Madison Hall in the Library of Congress (Madison Building)

As a whole, the Madison Building has a decidedly less grand, less museum-y feel than its counterpart across the street. When people say that the LOC is the most beautiful building in DC, they are referring to the Jefferson Building. At Madison, visitors can see Madison Hall, with a statue of the founding father and several quotes he uttered engraved on the wall, but it is nothing like the artistry of Jefferson. Nor does the Madison Building have as many exhibitions as the Jefferson Building.

This summer, I’ll be spending lots of time at class and at a different library altogether: the Georgetown Law Library. For the duration of the program, Informed Humane will be photos-only, with museum photos I’ve taken and not posted before on this blog. Afterward, I don’t know where life will take me, but I hope to keep blogging about museums, even as I move in another career direction.

Thank you to everyone who has followed along as I’ve gone on my weekly adventures!

*

May’s blog theme is Preserving and Interpreting Creativity.

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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