Background Information about the National Archives Experience
"The great collection of the National Archives is one of the wonders of our country, the richest, most enthralling documentation we have as a nation of who we are, what we have achieved, our adventures, and what we stand for."
When the National Archives in Washington, DC reopened its Rotunda on September 18, 2003, it unveiled not only the restored and re-encased Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, but the start of a whole new National Archives Experience for the education and inspiration of the American public. The National Archives, with the help of the Foundation for the National Archives, is creating a dramatic and powerful project to motivate people to care more deeply about democracy, learn about their individual stories, and make use of the patriotic spirit that lives on because of records.
The National Archives Experience is in essence a journey - a journey through time and a journey through American struggles and triumphs. It has the power to teach us how our nation's past can become a living instrument for directing our nation's future. Using exciting interactive components, the National Archives Experience will ensure that each visitor will take from it an understanding of his or her own personal and profound connection to the records in the National Archives. The National Archives Experience will accomplish this through six integrated components:
- Charters of Freedom - the Declaration of Independence, the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the National Archives Rotunda are the
centerpiece of the National Archives Experience. For the first time,
all four pages of the Constitution will be displayed and new cases will make
the Charters more accessible for younger visitors and those using wheelchairs.
In addition, a multi-language audio tool will give all visitors a more meaningful
- Public Vaults - the new permanent exhibition, creates the
feeling of going into the stacks and vaults of the National Archives. In the
central corridor, the Record of America will explore the transformation of
records through time and technology, from the earliest Native American treaties
to Presidential Web sites. The interactive experiences of the vaults will
draw their themes from the Preamble to the Constitution.
In We the People, help an elderly widow establish her identity as an American citizen or discover whether records of your family are in the Archives.
In To Form a More Perfect Union, explore evidence and judgments from civil rights cases such as Brown v. Board of Education or cast your vote after witnessing a great debate in Congress.
In Promote the General Welfare, be transported back to the day man first walked on the moon or uncover surprising inventions and patents from the 19th century.
In Provide for the Common Defense, use records to create a moment of film on D-Day or stand in the shoes of the President during the Cuban Missle Crisis.
In To Ourselves and Our Posterity, help a document become an Archives record or solve the challenge of reading electronic records in the 23rd century.
- William G. McGowan Theater - featuring a dramatic film illustrating the relationship
of records and democracy through the lives of real people. The McGowan Theatre also
will serve as the Capitol region's most important venue for documentary film,
as well as a forum for the great issues of American government.
- Special Exhibition Gallery - devoted to document-based exhibits
on newsworthy and timely topics and traveling exhibits from Presidential Libraries
and other sources. Exhibits that open in the Gallery will travel to other
venues in the U.S. and abroad.
- Learning Center - reaching America's youth, parents and teaching
professionals. The Learning Center will leverage the Archives' resources to
engage and inspire children to connect to our nation's exciting history.
- Internet - for the millions of people worldwide who cannot visit the National Archives Building, and those who want to continue exploring the Archives' resources. The Web site will recreate much of the excitement of the National Archives Experience online.
The records of the National Archives tell the stories of the American people and continually validate the American experience. They are a tangible legacy from the generations who built our nation. The National Archives Experience will inspire individuals to use the Archives to learn, to unravel, to discover and to celebrate these stories and the American spirit that is a hallmark of our great country.