Evolution of the book, east corridor. Manuscript book / J.W. Alexander, artist.  Photo of mural in the Library of Congress Jefferson Building depicting a monk illustrating a manuscript, with two monks in background.  c1896.

Evolution of the book, east corridor. Manuscript book / J.W. Alexander, artist. Photo of mural in the Library of Congress Jefferson Building depicting a monk illustrating a manuscript, with two monks in background. c1896.

When its doors opened to the public in 1897, the Library of Congress represented an unparalleled national achievement, the “largest, costliest, and safest” library in the world.

Its elaborately decorated interior, embellished by works of art from nearly fifty American painters and sculptors, linked the United States to classical traditions of learning and simultaneously flexed American cultural and technological muscle.