Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has opened the stately Ceremonial Room of the Jefferson Building to the public, a symbolic gesture that nonetheless reveals her focusing on connecting the library to everyday Americans.
The architecturally beautiful room served as the office of the Librarian from 1897 to 1980. With its domed ceiling, murals and ornate plasterwork, the room is a majestic backdrop that has hosted ceremonial events – such as meetings with dignitaries and heads of state – since the Librarian’s office was moved to the Madison Building. Before this week, visitors required special permission to enter.
“It’s a jewel. It’s symbolic of what the Library of Congress (is), a monument to knowledge,” Hayden said. “And it’s just beautiful.”
Visitors to the library will be able to view the room between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, except when it is required for official business.
To celebrate public access to the room, Hayden displayed a box containing the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the night he was assassinated in 1865. Two pairs of eyeglasses, a watch fob, a button, a pocket knife, a handkerchief and a wallet containing newspaper clippings and a Confederate $5 bill were donated to the library by Lincoln’s granddaughter in 1937 and kept in a small box in the office’s safe. Newly sworn-in librarian Daniel J. Boorstin discovered the box inside the forgotten safe in 1975.