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The Thomas Jefferson Building: Secret Messages

In the Library of Congress online interactive The Thomas Jefferson Building: Secret Messages, students explore four locations in the oldest of the library's buildings. Built between 1890 and 1897, the Thomas Jefferson Building features art and architectural details that help communicate the building's purpose to visitors. Students discover details in each of the four locations and decide which of four themes they best symbolize: celebrating achievement, providing access to knowledge, inspiring creativity, and promoting progress and discovery. At the end of the activity, students choose from all of the details the one they thought best conveyed its theme, and describe a modern symbol they might use to convey the same idea. A brief Teacher Resources page suggests ways of incorporating the activity into curriculum, and a blog entry offers more ideas.

Buildings are a living record of human interaction with place. This interactive encourages students to analyze buildings as primary sources and consider the intent behind architectural details.