The Committee of 100 continues to challenge the Architect of the Capitol and the Librarian of Congress over the lack of transparency of the current Visitor Experience Master Plan. First introduced in 2019, the Plan is a $60 million concept to “make over” the institution’s Jefferson Building – the library complex’s oldest and most recognizable historic building.
Opened in 1897, the Smithmeyer, Pelz, and Casey-designed Beaux Arts building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and is one of the national capital’s most recognizable historic structures. The Master Plan’s stated goal is to modernize and improve historic interior spaces to increase public access (approximately 1.8 million yearly pre-Pandemic), display more of the library’s treasures, and to add a new learning center and orientation gallery.
While laudable, some of these actions appear to affect adversely many of those ornate historic interiors and have caused controversy from the beginning. When one element of the Plan “leaked” in the Fall of 2022, a furor rose over the proposed destruction of the Monumental Central Desk in the Library’s Main Reading Room and punching a huge hole in the floor where it stood. Given the public outcry, the concept was quickly withdrawn.
Most critically, little of what is proposed is understood clearly by interested parties and the public given a federal statutory exemption from public review and comment afforded by Section 107 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Office of the Architect of the Capitol (which has jurisdiction over the Library of Congress) has, so far, refused to make the full details of the Plan public. The Committee contacted the Congressional Joint Committee on the Library as well as authored a letter to the editor (printed 2/21/23) raising these issues.
- C100 Letter Senator Klobuchar Library Of Congress
- January 27, 2023, Shelly Repp
The C100 calls on the Congressional Joint Committee on the Library to intervene to ensure the highest possible standard of renovation/rehabilitation in this landmark building and to appoint a Blue Ribbon advisory group of subject experts to oversee it.