Thursday, May 19, 2011

Our nation’s Capitol. . . cleared security and cleared security and cleared security again!

Security checks have been the norm at pretty much all of the Smithsonian and government venues we’ve visited during our month in Washington, D.C.  Normally they involve a bag check and maybe a walk through a security sensor but during the course of the tours of the U.S. Capitol and Library of Congress we went through SEVEN security checks, and that’s not including the cursory check as we exit the Library of Congress.  They begin as we enter the Longworth House Office Building to meet at Congressman Farr’s office.   I “beep” when I go through, am “wanded” and pass muster. . .we are in the building!  We met our tour guide, an intern from UC Santa Cruz, and set out on the tour.


This is just the beginning!  We walk down a long hallway between the Longworth and the Cannon House Office buildings, then another underground hall to the Capitol, stop at the security desk in the Capitol where we are issued clip-on badges and also stick-on Capitol tour badges. 

US Capitol badge

On to the galleries of the House of Representatives and Senate chambers.  On the way to the House of Representatives we wait in a line to surrender cameras and other electronics.  (I was relieved that I had left my purse with our phones in Congressman Farr’s office.)  We walk through the security check point,  I “beep” when I go through, am “wanded” and pass muster and we are seated in the House gallery.

House of Representatives badge

Walking through one of the hallways our group is nabbed by a security person:  “you don’t need those” and takes the clip-on badges.

We leave the House gallery, wind our way back to the security desk, pick up the camera and follow our tour guide back to the (same) elevator. . .hey, that’s the security person we just passed!  Are we stuck in a maze?

Then we are back into another line to surrender my camera --- is that the same room where I surrendered it for the House?  No, this is for the Senate.  I have no idea how we got here!  We weave our way up to the entrance for the Senate Gallery and, you guessed it, walk through another security check point where I “beep”, am “wanded” and pass muster (again,) and we are seated in the Senate gallery where we watch our senators at work.  They are taking a vote on a judicial appointment but don’t sit down and vote.  Instead they wander in, verbally give the clerk their vote and wander back out of the chambers.  We see John McCain!

Senate badge

Us, with Andrew Jackson in the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol.


At the Library of Congress our belongings go through the conveyor belt and we walk through the sensor.  Yes, I “beep” again but, OOPS, I forgot about my IPhone in my pocket!  Back through the process again and I pass muster!


The Great Hall of the Library of Congress. . .one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen!


During the War of 1812 the British burned the Capitol and the Library of Congress.  Thomas Jefferson had acquired the largest personal collection of books in the United States and offered to sell his library to Congress as a replacement.  Congress purchased Jefferson's library for $23,950.  A second fire on Christmas Eve of 1851, destroyed nearly two thirds of the 6,487 volumes Congress had purchased from Jefferson.  Now, the Library of Congress is attempting to reassemble Jefferson’s original collection and it is currently on special exhibit.   Couldn’t take pictures but it was awesome standing among books that he actually owned, touched and read!  (I know I’ve digressed from my “security story” but he is one of my favorites!)


As we are shooed out of the Library when it closes at 5:30 p.m. I must again open my bag for a final security check!  Whew!

Note:  At one of the security “wandings” the guard asks me if I have an artificial knee or other part. . .I say no, I am in possession of all of my original parts!


  1. This was interesting in lots of ways.
    I had no idea about the fire and the books. I love stuff like this.
    And imagine me with an artificial knee and hip - wonder what it would do to the secuity system?
    Love seeing you and hubby.

  2. Enjoyed your tour and inviting us along.

  3. It's been decades since I visited DC. How things have changed for the average tourist, enough monitoring to irk everyone.

  4. Wow! What an experience! Great post! I'm really enjoying your adventures vicariously!

  5. Wow ... that is some serious security!! I hope to visit the Library of Congress someday. It seems like a really terrific place. And I read about Jefferson's library being bought like that but cannot recall where! That is going to bug me until I remember.