I love images of people reading, so when I saw this sculpture on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. recently, I was intrigued. I photographed the sculpture from a variety of angles, and then read the inscription on its base – “what is past is prologue.” I was taken aback by the words. Where did they come from, and what did they mean?
It turns out that the sculpture, designed by Robert I. Aiken, is called The Future. The woman, pictured with an open book on her lap, looks off into the distance, to the future. The quotation is from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
A companion statue, called The Past, features a man holding a scroll and a closed book, with the inscription “Study the Past.”
Whatever happened in the past lays the foundation for what will happen in the future.