Literary Pilgrimages: Washington DC

Posted July 17, 2016 by Lory in places / 10 Comments

As promised, here are a few pictures from my recent trip to Washington, DC. On the first day we visited Washington National Cathedral, where I sang 32 years ago on a choir tour. It was as beautiful and impressive as I remembered, with amazing stained glass windows (fortunately undamaged by the recent earthquake) that depict human achievements as well as biblical stories. These do not come out well in pictures, alas, but are well worth a visit.

An elevator to one of the towers gives access to an enclosed walk with a nearly 360 degree view of the city.
An elevator to one of the towers gives access to an enclosed walk with a nearly 360 degree view of the city.
The nave and west rose window.
The nave and west rose window.
A detail from the Canterbury Pulpit, which shows the translation of the Bible into English and includes stone from Canterbury, England.
A detail from the Canterbury Pulpit, which shows the translation of the Bible into English and includes stone from Canterbury, England.

On Day Two, we visited the Library of Congress, where my brother works. There are over 3000 employees in three huge buildings; his office is in Adams, but we skipped that for the Jefferson Building, which includes most of the public exhibits as well as an iconographical extravaganza in its interior decoration. In the main rooms every surface is decorated with paintings and statues representing aspects of history, government, art, literature, science, and so forth. It’s quite something.

My brother got us into the main reading room, but we were not allowed to take pictures there, so here are some of the other places we visited.

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A copy of the Gutenberg Bible is one of the treasures on display.
Even the elevators are decorated: Here, "Anarchy" is part of a series depicting forms of government.
Even the elevators are decorated: Here, “Anarchy” is part of a series depicting forms of government.
Only congresspeople and library employees can check out books, but you can look at them. There were recent children's releases and cozy reading spots in the Young People's room.
Only congresspeople and library employees can check out books, but you can look at them. There were recent children’s releases and cozy reading spots in the Young People’s room.
The exhibit "America Reads" displayed some of the most influential and memorable books published in the US, chosen by readers. This case included early editions of Leaves of Grass and Little Women.
The exhibit “America Reads” displayed some of the most influential and memorable books published in the US, chosen by readers. This case included early editions of Leaves of Grass and Little Women.
A round room showcases the books from Thomas Jefferson's library, which formed the seed for the original collection.
A round room showcases the books from Thomas Jefferson’s library, which formed the seed for the original collection.

Just around the corner was the Folger Shakespeare Library, so we took a peek. I was sorry there were no performances going on in the lovely small theater, but there was an exhibition of artifacts and videos around the theme of “America’s Shakespeare.”

The exhibition gallery shows the Elizabethan touches on the interior.
The exhibition gallery shows the Elizabethan touches on the interior.
In true American style, Shakespeare has been used to advertise everything from sewing machines to chewing tobacco to perfume.
In true American style, Shakespeare has been used to advertise everything from sewing machines to chewing tobacco to perfume.

 

Relief of "Romeo and Juliet" from the Art Deco exterior.
Relief of “Romeo and Juliet” from the Art Deco exterior.

On the third day we visited museums and bookstores. We saw an interesting exhibition on The Greeks at the National Geographic Society, but no photos were allowed there.

We then went to the Phillips Collection, a small museum housed in a collector’s former home. The permanent collection is free on weekdays and is well worth seeing, with many wonderful pictures from the Impressionists to today.

From Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series, which tells the story of African-American movement north during WWI.
From Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, which tells the story of African-American movement north during WWI.

We browsed in two small bookstores in the Dupont Circle area; KramerBooks was a bustling spot with new books as well as a cafe, and Second Story Books had used books, music, maps and prints.

The children's selection at KramerBooks.
The children’s selection at KramerBooks features some local interest titles like “Of Thee I Sing” and “Madeline at the White House.”

We finished off with a short visit to the National Gallery of Art, but it was nearly closing time so we couldn’t do much. I’ll just leave you with a few bookish details from some of the works we saw there.

It was a wonderful trip and we’re already looking forward to going back. If you have any favorite DC spots let me know!

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10 responses to “Literary Pilgrimages: Washington DC

  1. Even though I live near DC (in Alexandria), I’ve not been to the Library of Congress, the Folger, Nat Geo, or the Phillips Gallery, so you’re ahead of me. I do like Kramerbooks and Second Storey books. And the National Gallery is spectacular. Politics and Prose and Capital Hill Books are also worth visiting. A lot of people also aren’t aware that DC is a wonderful city for live theatre. I see a show or two just about every month, and that’s barely scratching the surface of what’s available. Unfortunately a lot of the best local theatres seem to scale back in the summer, so there are fewer things for tourists to choose from.

    • Yes, the theater opportunities were not so many, plus we were exhausted from daytime activities. Next time I’d love to go at another time of year and sample some of those offerings.

  2. Looks like a wonderful visit. I bet your feet were tired from all the roaming around. So much historic treasures to explore. Loved your photos.

  3. Deb

    Sorry I missed you while you were in DC! You saw some really interesting sites, places I don’t get to very often. Library of Congress is one of my favorite places in DC. There’s plenty more to do here, so look me up next time you’re here!

    • I’d love to, Deb. I’m glad it looks like you had a fantastic time in Hawaii, although it was too bad we couldn’t connect.

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