Library of Congress officials gave a few more details last week about how “The Library of the 21st Century” is planning to complement the opening of the Capitol Visitor Center with a visitors’ project of its own. [IMGCAP(1)]
Designed as a way both to celebrate the Library’s focus on Web-based learning and to accommodate the dramatic increase in visitors that is expected on Capitol Hill as a result of the CVC, the Thomas Jefferson Building’s “New Visitors Experience” will open in spring 2008, in time for start of tourist season in Washington, D.C. (Architect of the Capitol officials are expecting an “early-to-mid 2008” opening for the CVC.)
Testifying last week for House appropriators, Librarian of Congress James Billington said: “The Library has already begun raising the substantial private funds needed to make the New Visitors Experience a reality. It will celebrate the Congress’ role in bringing knowledge into the lives of an even larger audience. This will be accomplished with private contributions and without any major reconstruction of Jefferson Building space.”
The Library is looking to raise $22 million to make the NVE a reality and as of this week is approximately 60 percent of the way there, according to a Library spokesman.
The NVE will include a new orientation gallery, an interactive tour of the Great Hall and a view of the Library’s Main Reading Room, where visitors can use interactive stations to view the room’s many art and sculpture pieces in greater detail.
Library documents on the NVE project released last week note that visitors occasionally can look forward to “nighttime sound and light presentations in the Main Reading Room itself covering the history, art, design and construction of the majestic room.”
The NVE also will feature exhibits showcasing the creation of the United States, Thomas Jefferson’s library — which became the basis of the LOC’s collection — and a “Early Americas Gallery,” which will focus on the history of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
According to Billington, a highlight of the Early Americas Gallery will be the 1507 Waldseem ller map, the first place the word “America” was used in reference to the Western Hemisphere and what often is referred to as “the birth certificate of America”
The 2.1 million additional people per year who are expected to visit the Library will either enter the Jefferson Building “experience” via an underground tunnel from the CVC or through the grand bronze doors at the top of the steps above the Neptune Fountain, an entrance to the building that today is generally off-limits to the public.
(The Government Accountability Office testified earlier this month that the AOC is less than a million dollars away from going over the $10 million cap that Congress set in 2002 for the tunnel project.)
An additional 11 police officers are expected to be required at the Library to man the NVE and the tunnel.
The Library is expected to close the Great Hall and some other areas of the Jefferson Building later this year in preparation for the NVE.