July 11th, 2010


Poem for Sunday and Library Treasures

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After lunch on Saturday we went downtown to two library exhibits: Creating the United States at the Library of Congress, which includes Thomas Jefferson's library, and Lost at Sea at the Folger Shakespeare Library, which examines the ocean in British literature and life. When he sold his books to become the core of the congressional library after the British burned Washington in 1814, Jefferson's was believed to be the largest personal collection of books in the United States; obviously, we didn't get to see that collection at Monticello, since it was moved to Washington. Creating the United States also has Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence and a draft of the US Constitution with George Washington's notes on it. While we were walking around the magnificent Great Hall, we also went to see Exploring the Early Americas, which has maps and artifacts from both sides of the Atlantic, and The Red Book of Carl G. Jung, an amazing display of Jung's artwork and writings as well as his letters with Freud that led to their split and some artwork and writings from Jungian proponents like Martha Graham and George Lucas.

The Folger exhibit is subtitled The Ocean in the English Imagination, 1550-1750 and is in the long, dark exhibit hall, currently rigged with a sail and anchor. It has displays on Edward Wright's groundbreaking map of the world, Humphrey Gilbert's voyage to Newfoundland and dramatic words in favor of colonization, and the enormous popularity of Robinson Crusoe. Since this is the Folger Shakespeare Library, there are also early editions of The Tempest and Shakespeare's sonnets with notes on how Shakespeare borrowed from popular nautical stories and phrases ("It is the star to every wandering bark") along with navigational equipment and books for sailors and merchants on the sea and the New World. My kids distracted themselves reading all the archaic print words in which a lower-case S looks like an F ("a fource for feamen"). We stopped briefly at the Eastern Flea Market before leaving DC. When we got home, Paul made homemade pizza for dinner and we watched Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, being in the mood both from the nautical exhibit and from watching the prequel the day before.

Unfortunately neither the Folger nor the Library of Congress permit photography in any of the exhibit halls, so here are some photos of the spectacular Thomas Jefferson Building Great Hall of the latter and the striking exterior of the former:

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