About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Public Program "American Treasures" with Author Stephen Puleo

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
October 11, 2016

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us today, whether you are here in the theater or watching on YouTube.

What better place is there to talk about Stephen Puleo’s new book, American Treasures: The Secret Efforts to Save the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address? The National Archives is full of treasures—some are undiscovered, some are quite famous. With the most famous ones, such as those named in the book’s title, we often assume that they are where they always were destined to be. How they came about and how they survived to our day is not always a straight path, however.

Before we get to that fascinating story, though, I’d like to let you know about two other programs coming up this month.

On Thursday, October 13 at noon, we will screen a new historical documentary film, The Year of the Tiger: JFK 1962, which features archival images, film footage, and audio recordings from the National Archives and other sources to chronicle the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The film’s director, Joe Looby, will be here to discuss the film and answer questions.

On Wednesday, October 19 at 7 p.m., A’Lelia Bundles—journalist, author, and Chair of the National Archives Foundation—will moderate a panel discussion on “Revolutionary Movements Then and Now: Black Power and Black Lives Matter.” The program is presented by the National Archives African American employee affinity group, Say It Loud!, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Power Movement.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events in print or online at Archives.gov. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive it by regular mail or email. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

Earlier I said that we are in a most appropriate place to talk about Stephen Puleo’s American Treasures. Just above us, in the Rotunda, are two of the documents he writes about—the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

When this building was constructed in the 1930s, the Rotunda was designed to display those two plus the Bill of Rights. When the National Archives Building opened to the public in 1936, the shrine to hold our founding documents was empty.

We had to wait until 1952 to bring all three founding documents together, and the story of the how the Declaration and Constitution came to the National Archives is one we here never tire of hearing.

Now I’d like to introduce Jessie Kratz, the historian of the National Archives. Jessie became our first official agency historian in 2013. She was previously with the Center for Legislative Archives here at the National Archives and has been with the agency since 1999.

Please welcome Jessie Kratz.