Obscurus Epistula

On Friday I spent my day doing research in the Manuscript Room at the Library of Congress. I have done research on various projects at the LOC over the years, using almost every one of the library’s different resources, but this was my first opportunity to access their collection of original manuscripts and letters, and I was very impressed.

Every time I go to the Library of Congress, I leave with renewed awe at the fact that such a wonderful research resource is right here in our backyards. But it wasn’t until Friday that I gained a deeper appreciation of just how awesome this resource is.

The Manuscript Room is where researchers (with a stated reason for being there) get to handle original documents from America’s past. The collections contained within are wide-ranging including “rock stars” of the past to minor league nobodies but all have the air of history about them. The Manuscript Room feels like a protected inner-sanctum where respect for the source material is like religion. Getting the privilege to handle 150 year old letters is every historian’s dream and in the Manuscript Room you get that chance. Of course a lot of the collections are preserved on micro-fiche as well, but the originals are always available for comparison if needed.

I am thrilled to have finally had an excuse to use the Manuscript Room at the Library of Congress and hope to have more reasons to research there in the future. If you are a student of history (professional or amateur) I highly recommend taking a trip down there, it makes for a great afternoon.

2 Comments so far

  1. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 8:34 am

    If memory serves, I think you need a special ID for getting into the LOC? How does that process work?

  2. darpino (unregistered) on April 10th, 2006 @ 11:38 am

    Actually they’ve really streamlined the ID process in the last few years. Go to the Madison Library, show an valid Driver’s License, fill out a form, and they print you a photo ID in about 5 minutes. They ask why you need research access but do nothing to verify your reason, so really anyone can gain access with a driver’s license and a small fib.

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