Visitors Have Mixed Impressions of CVC

Posted December 2, 2008 at 4:24pm

At 12:58 p.m. the Capitol Visitor Center was virtually empty, save for a few Capitol guides and CVC employees.

At 1:05 p.m. the CVC was full of visitors who came for its opening. Many of them decided to take a break from work or just happened to have a bit of free time, but others were from much farther away.

Mak Hansborough and his wife, Lou Ivey, live in Eastern Market and thought the opening would be a good day to see the CVC.

“There’s a lot of great history, even for people who’ve studied history, and even for people who live nearby like us,” Hansborough said.

A series of models of the Capitol from the past century, on exhibit inside the CVC, gave Ivey insight into her family’s past.

“My father was here as a little child and I can find where his house is because he lived across from the Cannon Building,” she said.

Loke Freedman, an Alaskan, came to Washington to see the CVC’s plaster model of the full-size Statue of Freedom, which sits atop the Dome. She said the model and the CVC exhibits help teach the public why the Statue of Freedom was created.

“Now people are able to learn about it,” Freedman said. “And little kids don’t even know who’s on the Capitol, so now when they come to visit they can learn about it.”

There were even a few visitors from outside the U.S.

Dana Qarout, an American history buff, and her family were visiting from Jordan when they heard about the exhibit and decided to have a look.

“I asked my parents to bring me here,” Qarout said. “I really wanted to come to Washington to see the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress.”

Some visitors lauded the exhibit but criticized the CVC’s cost ($621 million) and lengthy construction period (six years.)

“It’s a little too regal for my tastes,” said John Swallow, who lives in the D.C. area and had been on Capitol Hill for business.

“[I]t’s a little too palatial and took a long time to design and to me there’s a lot of floor space that could be used,” he added. “I expected more exhibits.”