Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Visit to Washington, DC. - Family, Friends, Learning & Laughter - Part 3

    Oh no, Monday isn't done yet.  Before we ended our class time at the Archives, we had a lecture by Sabrina Petersen of Ancestry.com (no relation that we know of, but of course that almost goes without saying when Patronymic surnames are involved).
    It is always good to hear from those that work for a site like Ancestry.com.  They always teach me something new about how to use the site and what things are there.  Her focus was to provide us tips and tricks for accessing Federal Records at the site.  She also gave us the chance for some questions and answers as well as the opportunity to vent about the way some of the things work on the site.  It was very informative and enjoyable.  Her team is working on several special projects that sound really fascinating. 
    It was then time to meet up with my wife and sister for the optional evening session at the Library of Congress (LOC or LC for those of you keeping up with the abbreviations). They were coming along to hang out in the library while I was in class and that way we could all experience the Main Reading Room at the same time.  My sister had seen it from the galleries that you visit on the tour, but had never entered the room itself on the main level.  We managed to figure out where we needed to go to get the library cards required to be allowed in the reading rooms and then we went into the room.  It is hard to describe the feeling as we entered the room.
Library of Congress Reading Room 2
(Photo credit: Flickr/Erik Chan)
    Here is how part of it is described at the following site -
(http://myloc.gov/ExhibitSpaces/MainReadingRoom/Pages/default.aspx) 

    "Eight giant marble columns each support 10-foot-high allegorical female figures in plaster representing characteristic features of civilized life and thought: Religion, Commerce, History, Art, Philosophy, Poetry, Law and Science.
    The 16 bronze statues set upon the balustrades of the galleries pay homage to men whose lives symbolized the thought and activity represented by the plaster statues."


    I simply said, WOW!!  In hushed tones of course. We were in a library after all.  What an absolutely amazing space. I told my wife and sister that I didn't know how anyone could do any reading or research in the room because you'd constantly get distracted looking at all the details all around the room.
    Sadly though, we had to drag ourselves from the room to get a quick bite to eat before I headed to a class in a much less interesting conference room with James P. Sweany, head of the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room in the Library of Congress.
    The class itself, however, was extremely interesting as he proceeded to give us a feel for what types of materials are contained in the LOC collections.   He also give us some insight on the materials found in his reading room and a brief overview of the website specific to that room.
See - http://www.loc.gov/rr/genealogy/
   We then had a brief chance to go to the Genealogy Reading Room and check it out in person.  I quickly gathered up various free research guides that were available to patrons and browsed the stacks as I told myself - I have to come back when I have more time!
     Whew! that's it for Monday.  Stay tuned for more fun...