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April 26, 2024

ABA Day Library of Congress Tour

During ABA Day, attendees were lucky enough to attend a rare book tour.

During ABA Day, attendees were lucky enough to attend a rare book tour.

ABA Day 2024 culminated with a guided tour at the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world and the main research arm of the U.S. Congress, that showcased the elegant art and architecture of the Jefferson building, along with the Library’s rare and historic book collections in the Madison building. 

Former ABA Public Services Director Bob Horowitz was one of the docents leading bar leaders, lawyers, and staff on a detailed tour of the artworks embellishing the Great Hall in the Jefferson building (1886-1897), the oldest of the three buildings that house the Library’s collections. Visitors got to see Thomas Jefferson’s personal law book collection and a Gutenberg Bible, one of Europe’s earliest printed books.

The Jefferson building was first opened to the public in 1897, with materials transferred from its original location in the U.S. Capitol. The Great Hall of the Jefferson building is known for its elaborate interior, decorated by works of art by American painters and sculptors in the classical tradition. Murals ornament the walls and ceiling of the Great Hall, with figures portraying the arts, sciences, literature, and music. Visitors were able to view the Jefferson Main Reading Room with researcher desks surrounded by marble columns under an elegant painted dome. Decorating the dome and marble columns are painted figures and statues representing history, law, religion, philosophy, languages, and fine arts. 

The day included a tour of the Law Library in the Madison building (1965-1980) where Librarians gave an overview of Library of Congress print collections and digital resources available to the public, including legal research classes for U.S. case law; resources on foreign and comparative law;  subscription databases accessible in the Reading Room; and the “Ask a Librarian” reference service for assistance on domestic and foreign law questions.

ABA Day visitors were also lucky to experience a special presentation of rare books in the Madison building by Rare Book Librarian Nathan Dorn, including handwritten texts from the Middle Ages, illuminated (illustrated) manuscripts, and early legal documents in Arabic and French.

The Library of Congress has a small exhibit on the early history of the American Bar Association and its role in promoting a uniform code of ethics for attorneys, with a display of a report from the ABA’s original founding in 1878.

The tour was a great way to end another successful ABA Day event on Capitol Hill, and the ABA is grateful to the Library and Law Library of Congress for its hospitality and support.

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