National Archives Brings "American Originals" to Chicago
Press Release · Friday, January 18, 2002

Washington, DC

On Friday, February 8, the National Archives traveling exhibition "American Originals" opens at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago. This opening is part of a three-year effort by the National Archives and Records Administration to share some of the rarely-seen jewels of its collection with the American people. Chicago is the first Midwest venue for this major exhibition, which is scheduled to travel to six other cities during the next two years. The Nature Museum setting presents the opportunity to feature several documents relating to nature and the environment.

In conjunction with "American Originals," there will be a special display of the original, signed Emancipation Proclamation. This landmark document will be on display at the Nature Museum over President's Day weekend, from Friday, February 15 through Monday, February 18. It will also be on display for four days at each of the other venues.

"American Originals" showcases original documents that have charted the course of American history. The exhibition is drawn from the vast holdings of the National Archives, which preserves and makes available to the public those records of the United States government that have been identified as having permanent value. These original documents are the raw stuff of history. They are physical links to the past - pieces of history in its most unprocessed form. While some of the documents announce their own importance with flourished signatures and wax seals, others are deceptively routine in appearance. All of them have passed through the hands of the most notable figures in our nation's history, and hold messages beyond their years.

In addition to the Emancipation Proclamation, some of the highlights of "American Originals" at the Nature Museum include:

  • Official voting record of the 1787 Continental Convention;
  • Louisiana Purchase Treaty, signed by Robert Livingston and James Monroe in Paris, April 30, 1803;
  • John F. Kennedy's handwritten draft of his inaugural address, January 17, 1961;
  • The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (this document will be exhibited only in Chicago).

"'American Originals' gives us an invaluable opportunity to share our nation's rich historical resources with Americans around the country. The traveling exhibition is scheduled to coincide with an extensive renovation of the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. When we reopen the Rotunda in 2003, the Charters of Freedom will be more accessible to all Americans and our renovated building will have better public areas to showcase our nation's documentary heritage," said John Carlin, Archivist of the United States.

In addition to the display at the Nature Museum, "American Originals" was on display at The New York Public Library in New York City and is currently scheduled to travel to the following locations:

  • Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio (May 24-Sept. 2, 2002);
  • Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, Ga. (Sept. 27, 2002-Jan. 5, 2003);
  • Union Station Kansas City, Kansas City, Mo. (Jan. 31-May 4, 2003);
  • Witte Museum, San Antonio, Tex. (May 31-Sept. 1, 2003);
  • Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, Calif. (Oct. 4, 2003-Jan. 4, 2004); and
  • Old State House, Hartford, Conn. (Jan. 30-May 9, 2004)

"American Originals" will be on display from February 8, 2002, through April 28, 2002, in the Midwest Generation Special Exhibits Gallery at the Nature Museum. The Nature Museum is located at 2430 N. Cannon Drive in Chicago, and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum will have special extended hours during the display of the Emancipation Proclamation. Those hours are: Friday, February 15, Saturday, February 16, and Monday, February 18 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, February 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults; $4 for seniors and college students with valid I.D.; and $3 for teens and children under the age of 17. The Chicago Academy of Sciences, established in 1857, was the first museum in Chicago. The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum of the Chicago Academy of Sciences opened in October 1999. It carries on the Academy's mission of exploring and nurturing the environment, and serves as the cornerstone for Academy research projects.

"American Originals" was created by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, and The Foundation for the National Archives. The exhibition is locally funded in part through the generous contributions of Farmers Insurance Group.

For additional information on the traveling exhibition, contact the National Archives public affairs staff at 301-837-1700. For additional information about the exhibition at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum contact Amy Ward or Pam Rwankole at 312-558-1770. Visit the National Archives Home Page on the World Wide Web at


This page was last reviewed on August 16, 2018.
Contact us with questions or comments.