By HELEN DALRYMPLE
The story of the development of the U.S Capitol is told in a new exhibition, "Temple of Liberty: Building the Capitol for a New Nation," that opened in the Madison Gallery on Feb. 24.
Library staff had a sneak preview of the exhibition on Feb. 23, with tours led by Martha E. Hopkins, the exhibition coordinator, Interpretive Programs Office, and Ford Peatross, curator of the Architecture, Design and Engineering Center in the Prints and Photographs Division.
Dr. Billington officially opened the exhibition the evening of Feb. 22 at a reception attended by members of Congress, donors and supporters of the exhibition, Madison Council members and other Library guests. The reception was supported by a grant from the Philip Morris Companies Inc.
"The United States Capitol was the most important of the public buildings planned by the nation's Founding Fathers," said Dr. Billington, "and was, in a way, the centerpiece of the nation itself."
The exhibition, which celebrates the 200th anniversary of the building of the Capitol, traces the fascinating efforts of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe and their architects -- especially William Thornton, Benjamin Henry Latrobe and Charles Bulfinch -- to create a building that would reflect the democratic ideals of the new nation (see following story).
"The exhibit is part of the project to establish a Center for American Architecture Design and Engineering within the Library," noted Dr. Billington. "It is intended to focus private sector support and public attention on the unparalleled Library collections in these particular areas."
Even though Congress was still in session, several members came to the reception, including Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who brought along his daughter Lily; and Reps. Frank Cremeans (R-Ohio); Wes Cooley (R-Ore.); Steve Horn (R-Calif.); Mike Ward (D-Ky.); Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.); Charles Taylor (R-N.C.); John LaFalce (D-N.Y.); and Jim Bunn (R-Ore.). Sen. Stevens came back for a second look on Saturday.
Among the special guests at the opening reception was Anthony Knisely, a descendant of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who came with his wife and two young sons. And Babette Penton, a descendant of Charles Bulfinch, was also present.
The exhibition was produced by the Interpretive Programs Office in concert with guest curator Pamela Scott, a well-known historian in the field of American architecture. She was editor of the papers of Robert Mills and was coauthor of the award-winning Buildings of the District of Columbia, part of the multivolume Buildings of the United States Series published by the Society of Architectural Historians and the Oxford University Press.
Ms. Scott also wrote the exhibition catalog, which will be published by Oxford University Press on April 28. The cost of the lavishly illustrated 192-page volume will be $21.95 in paperback and $45 in hardback.
The exhibition garnered media attention, with C-SPAN broadcasting three 10-minute live segments from the exhibition the morning it opened, and a "Style" section piece in The Washington Post on Feb. 25 by Benjamin Forgey, the paper's architectural critic. He called it "an excellent, informative, celebratory exhibition."
Helen Dalrymple is a senior public affairs specialist in the Public Affairs Office.