September 8, 2003
Special Report in Prologue Highlights Launch of the National Archives Experience
The story of how the nation's founding documents-the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights-were carefully removed from old encasements, given expert preservation treatment, and returned to public display at the National Archives Building in Washington is revealed in detail in the Fall issue of Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration.
In a special report, "Renewing the Spirit of Independence," Prologue marks the return of these documents, known collectively as the Charters of Freedom, to public display on September 18 in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building. Their return also launches the National Archives Experience, a multimedia, interactive permanent exhibit that will take visitors "inside the stacks" of the National Archives to learn the story of America.
In "A New Era Begins for the Charters of Freedom," NARA's conservators reveal to Prologue readers how they carefully removed each of the Charters from their old encasements and performed expert conservation treatment before placing them in state-of-the-art encasements equipped with technology to monitor the documents' condition while they are sealed inside.
"Far sighted as they were, the Framers could never have dreamed of the steps that future caretakers would take-and the amazing space-age tools and technologies brought to bear-to ensure the preservation of their words written on parchment in the last decades of the eighteenth century," the conservators write.
The special report also details the top-to-bottom renovation of the National Archives Building on the Mall in Washington that is bringing a renovated Rotunda, with adjoining exhibit space for other components of the National Archives Experience, including the new William G. McGowan Theater.
The new National Archives Building Research Center, opening this fall, is described in another article that explains how it will bring together many of the agency's research services now located on upper floors of the building and even add some new services. The consolidation is aimed at making research easier, speedier, and more efficient.
The National Archives Experience is previewed in another article that explains how visitors can have interactive experiences involving some of the historic holdings in the National Archives.
Archivist John W. Carlin, in his regular column, announces the next step the National Archives will take as part of its role in the project titled Our Documents: A National Initiative on American History, Civics, and Service. The project focuses on 100 milestone documents in American history, most of which are in NARA's holdings.
Selected articles from the Fall issue, including the entire "Renewing the Spirit of Independence" special report can be viewed at the NARA web site at www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/index.html
The Fall issue also includes Prologue's regular features, including Genealogy Notes and Spotlight on NARA as well as a feature on the letters that outraged Americans sent to Federal regulators after the 1938 broadcast "War of the Worlds," which led many people to believe there was a Martian invasion.
For 35 years, Prologue has shared with readers the rich resources and programs of the National Archives, its regional archives, and the Presidential libraries. Each issue features historical articles-drawn from National Archives' holdings and written by noted historians, archivists, and experts-as well as articles explaining and describing many of the National Archives' activities and programs as the nation's recordkeeping agency. The Washington Post said, "Prologue . . . can be regarded quite literally as an invitation for further study. It is also consistently absorbing reading."
A 1-year subscription to Prologue costs $16. To begin a subscription, call 301-837-1850 or 1-800-234-8861, or print out the order form found on the web site at http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/subscribe_to_prologue.html. Subscribe now and get a free special issue in 2004 highlighting the National Archives Experience.
Copies of Prologue can be purchased in the National Archives Experience Museum Shop and the Publications Sales Office (Room 406) at the National Archives Building in Washington and the Publications Sales Office at the National Archives in College Park, MD.