A few weeks ago, I officially advanced to candidacy in American history at George Mason University, and I took my first trip as an ABD to the Library of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia, for research in the business records of Tredegar Iron Works.
Over one hundred years of ledgers, accounts, patents, letters, advertisements—the paper evidence of corporate structure and process—are housed in 1,345 boxes, 490 volumes, seven oversize boxes (containing 93 oversize folders and 1,000 drawings), six oversize map case drawers, and one rolled tube.
The Library of Congress hasn’t always been friendly to the public-at-large. Well into the latter half of the twentieth century, institutional culture reflected its original purpose as a reference library for Senators, Representatives and their staffs, and directions and admonitions to researchers seeking access to its collections served to discourage frivolous bibliographic meandering. It was an exciting place to go, but not for the faint-hearted.