May 30, 2000
National Archives Exhibition Features New Encasement for the Charters of Freedom
Washington, D.C. . . To kick off the commemoration of the 213th anniversary of the signing of the U. S. Constitution, the National Archives will open an exhibition unveiling of one of the new high-tech encasements that will protect the Charters of Freedom-the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. On Friday, September 15, 2000, after an early morning ceremony open to the working press and invited guests, the public will get its first glimpse at the space-age housing designed to safeguard our nation's most precious documents from environmental hazards.
For three days only, from Friday, September 15 through Sunday, September 18, the public may view Page Two of the U.S. Constitution, which has been placed in this new housing. (Page Two has not been on display since 1989, when it was exhibited for one day only.) The display, which is free and open to the public, is the centerpiece of a new exhibition entitled "Preserving the Charters of Freedom." The exhibition will be in the National Archives Rotunda, located at Constitution Avenue, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, through July 4, 2001. Hours are 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. To accommodate anticipated crowds, the Rotunda will remain open until 8 P.M. on Friday, September 15.
Beginning Monday, September 19, a manufacturing model of the new encasement with a facsimile of the Bill of Rights will replace Page Two of the Constitution. "Preserving the Charters of Freedom" chronicles the early preservation efforts by the National Bureau of Standards in the 1950's and the current project to remove the documents from their 50-year old housing, examine them and re-encase them in the new space-age housing. A video component shows the team of engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology manufacturing the encasement out of titanium and aluminum, the parchment being removed from its 1952 housing, the examination and preservation process, and the installation of the documents in its new housing.
Corner models of the original housing and the new design will help visitors understand the construction of the encasements. A wooden mock-up of the renovated handicapped- accessible Rotunda that will be redesigned to display all six pages of the Charters of Freedom will also be on display.
"Preserving the Charters of Freedom" highlights the story of the planned National Archives Building renovation and the re-encasement of the Charters to the more than one million visitors who come to the National Archives each year. This renovation of the Rotunda and the surrounding exhibition space will include: restoring the two oversized murals by Barry Faulkner depicting the presentation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; reconfiguring the display cases for the Charters of Freedom so that all four pages of the Constitution can be displayed (currently only the first and last pages can be displayed;) and so that the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights will be accessible to handicapped visitors; and constructing new exhibition space to showcase some of the highlights from the National Archives collection.
The funding for re-encasement and building renovation is a public-private partnership. The U.S. Congress has appropriated funds for the new encasements for the Charters of Freedom and preliminary work for the renovation of the building. The AT&T Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, Jeanette Cantrell Rudy, Madison "Al" and Lila Self, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Bay Foundation have supported the project.
The National Archives has a whole week of free public events planned to celebrate Constitution Week. For more information about these activities, the public may check the National Archives web site at http://www.archives.gov or call 202-501-5000 for a listing of public events.
For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.