Washington Day 3 - Air and Space, and the Library of Congress

“Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.” Hop on the Red Line at Dupont Circle; hop off at Metro Central. Flickr photoset here, or read on for more. More frescoes

I mentioned this before, but Washington is a picturesque town. And full of good museums, as well. In that spirit, I wandered down to aerospace-geek paradise, better known as the National Air and Space Museum. As soon as you walk in the front door, you see this - Mercury 7, the capsule in which John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. The rest of the museum is packed to the rafters with equally cool artifacts. The Hubble Space Telescope is here. (Did you know that the original imaging system on the Hubble’s Wide-Field Planetary Camera only had a resolution of 0.6 megapixels?) So is Apollo 11’s lunar module. The massive main engines of the Saturn 5 rocket. A Douglas DC3 hanging from the roof. And for astronomy geeks, the chart on which Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson first saw the cosmic microwave background radiation that confirmed the Big Bang theory and won them a Nobel Prize. The other stop on my itinerary was the Library of Congress. Yes, it’s the world’s biggest library by number of items in its collection. No, it doesn’t have every book ever. They get 20,000 submissions every day, most of them coming from people filing copyright claims, and accept about 10,000 of them. They also have the world’s most extensive collection of comic books. It’s a breathtakingly ornate building. The original building (the Jefferson building) was restored in the early 1980s, at a cost of several tens of millions of dollars, and it looks the business. The goddess Minerva features prominently in the sculpture, frescoes and mosaics that cover the entry hall. Here’s the view looking up: Frescoes on the ceiling And the view looking down: The entry hall As an example of the detail in the ceiling frescoes: this is William Caxton’s printers mark - he’s an English printer from the late-1400s, the first person to print books in English. There are about eighty of these printers’ marks scattered around the ceiling of the main hall, as well as the seasons, the senses, Greek sporting frescoes, and gold- and aluminium-leaf everywhere.