Building the Madison Building

You may recall an earlier post that discussed the strong connections between ACLS by way the British Manuscripts Project and the Library of Congress, home to ACL’s organization records collection.

In digging through political advocacy files from the 1980s (yes, this is my job. I get to nose around in materials depicting the long and exciting road of political shoulder-rubbing of ACLS leadership), I came across more evidence linking these entities, this time by way of Dr. Frederick Burkhardt and the erection of the James Madison Memorial Building (a.k.a, my not-so-humble marble abode).

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As you may know, the Library of Congress consists of 3 main buildings located on Capitol Hill. The Thomas Jefferson Building, perhaps the most iconic, opened its doors in 1897 after a tumultuous beginning; the John Adams Building in 1928; and the James Madison Memorial Building, the third in the trio was open to the public in 1980.

Now, as you can imagine, securing funding for such a large building can be difficult. This isn’t like marking your spot on a crowded beach by throwing down a towel! ACLS’s Waldo Leland was no stranger to that uphill battle in his support of the National Archives building, which I wrote about here. So it comes as no surprise that three decades later, his predecessor, Dr. Burkhardt would do the same thing for the third Library of Congress building. In a 1965 letter to Kenneth J. Gray, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds, House Committee on Public Works, Burkhardt articulated his support for the building by connecting its erection to the value of knowledge:

The well-nigh incredible growth in knowledge and information, and the greatly expanded responsibilities of the library make the third building essential if the needs of the present, to say nothing of the future, are to be met.

He added a bit of flair in the next letter…

The inability of the Library of Congress adequately to serve the research needs of scientists and scholars because of lack of space has been little short of a public scandal for years.

Now that’s advocacy! Spoiler alert: the Library’s third building was built, originally for storage, but later to house employees and materials. I should probably remind my co-workers that we have an Mr. Burkhardt to thank for giving us a place to do our important work of preserving this country’s material culture!

One thought on “Building the Madison Building

  1. Pingback: The Madison Building: Library or office space? | Documenting the Humanities

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