Press/Journalists
Press Release
March 26, 1998
Time Travelers Return to the National Archives Rotunda

Washington D.C....On May 1, 1998, visitors to the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, will be treated to a guided tour of the "American Originals" exhibition by Benjamin Franklin. As he walks through the sampling of documentary treasures on display from the vast holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Mr. Franklin will introduce visitors to George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Edgar Allan Poe, and Rosa Parks, all of whom are featured in the exhibition.

"American Originals" first opened to the public on December 8, 1995. Since then, three selections of documents, combining the familiar with the obscure, have been on display. NARA was pleased to have a troupe of historical interpreters, known as The Time Travelers, perform for the public that December day. This month the National Archives welcomes them back to the Rotunda for a return engagement.

The Time Travelers are part of The American Historical Theatre of Philadelphia (AHT), a nonprofit corporation founded by William and Pamela Sommerfield and devoted to the dissemination of history in an entertaining, yet educational manner. Through the development of a performance style known as first-person interpretation, AHT strives to create an interactive relationship between the arts, the humanities, and the audience so that each encounter becomes intensely personal.

AHT conducts careful research into its interpreters. Because each is cast with full regard to portraits, accurate historical costuming and comprehensive knowledge of the character, interpreters are able not only to work from well-crafted scripts but also to answer questions while staying in character. First-person interpretation grew out of the "historic site preservation" movement of the early 20th century when patricians, civic leaders, and middle class professionals sought to preserve historic houses and protect what they viewed as traditional American values and cultural styles. Today, in an age so rich in visual stimulation, historical interpreters add the dimension of reality to the visual image.

For the past 3 years, the National Archives Arts and Culture program has commissioned three scripts by The American Historical Theatre, based on the research and exhibition script of "American Originals." After selecting the characters for interpretation, the education and exhibits staff has worked closely with AHT to achieve historical accuracy and faithful presentation. Reflected in these performances is the value of employing techniques of theater and live presentation to heighten public awareness and understanding of historic events. Over the years, the National Archives has commissioned more than a dozen original plays based on the records in its holdings, presented these plays to the public, and shared the scripts with Presidential libraries, regional archives, and other educational institutions and theaters. Time and again these presentations have demonstrated the effectiveness of using dramatic interpretation as an educational tool for bringing history and documents to life.

Join us in the Rotunda on May 1 for three encounters with The Time Travelers at 11:00 A.M., 1:30 P.M., and 2:30 P.M. The audience will have the opportunity to ask questions of each of the historical figures following each performance.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.

98-63

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