National Archives News

National Archives Joins Forces With Federal Agencies to Prepare for Nation’s 250th Anniversary Celebration

By Victoria Macchi | National Archives News

WASHINGTON, August 4, 2021 — The National Archives and Records Administration joined an agreement with 20 federal agencies to support the celebration of the U.S. semiquincentennial, which in five years will mark the country's 250th anniversary.

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Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero delivers remarks at the signing of an agreement in the Library of Congress’s Great Hall to collaborate in celebrating the semiquincentennial anniversary of the United States in 2026. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.

The ceremonial signing on August 2, 2021, coincided with the date on which the Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 members of the Second Continental Congress.

“What joins Americans to one another is their adherence to the ideals that inspired the birth of our country—freedom, equality, self-determination—as expressed in the Declaration of Independence,” Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said at the signing of an interagency memorandum of understanding, hosted by the Library of Congress. “Our programs will seek to engage all people of all ages from across the 50 states and U.S. territories, with stories that reflect the diverse origins of the American people, and will offer opportunities to connect with stories of the American Revolution and the founding principles upon which our country was established.”

Ferriero was appointed to serve on the Semiquincentennial Commission in 2018. He is one of 9 federal government officials tasked with facilitating national plans to observe and commemorate the occasion, along with 8 members of Congress and 16 private citizens.

The U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission is leading commemorative activities that unite U.S. agencies, cultural institutions, and organizations, including the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. 

In signing the memorandum of understanding on Monday, the organizations committed to planning, creating, and collaborating on 250th anniversary programming in the coming years.

Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, presented opening remarks. 

“The Library's collections are filled with stories that tell us who we are and where we came from. And as we share these resources, we want to make sure that everyone feels included in American history,” Hayden said.

The National Archives is the guardian of the nation’s founding documents, including the original, signed record copy of the Declaration of Independence. In addition to other activities for the 2026 commemoration, the agency will invite the public to see the Declaration, displayed alongside the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC.

The founding documents are also viewable online. 

Speaking at the event, Anthea M. Hartig, Director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, noted that while the memorandum of understanding signed could be seen as a “perfunctory” action, “let us think of it as we commemorate, collaborate, consult, coordinate, and inform each other of our work during the semiquincentennial.”

“As stewards of our nation's past, the future demands our collective action,” Hartig said. “Together, we commit to telling the comprehensive, inclusive, and diverse story of the nation.”

Read more about the commission and view a full list of participating institutions on the America250 initiative site.