The World’s Top Libraries

Key among Washington’s sights is the monumental library of Congress. As the largest library in the world, it boasts nearly 142 million items on 650 miles of shelves. Each working day, the library receives some 22,000  items, from which it pulls 10,000 for its collections. (Items not chosen are used in exchange programs.)  Among its most notable books is one of the three perfect vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible in existence.

Tour the library’s elaborately decorated Great Hall and Main Reading Room, and check out the Bibles Gallery, which features murals that trace the evolution of the book from the cairn and oral traditions to Egyptian hieroglyphics and the printing press. The Library of Congress Experience opened in 2008, bringing the library’s rare collections to life digitally. Using touchscreens in the exhibition galleries, you can turn the pages of rare books and examine rare documents, including edits made to the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.