National Archives Experience Exceeds Attendance Expectations
Press Release · Thursday, August 11, 2005

Washington, DC… The National Archives Experience has brought record numbers of visitors to see the newly renovated Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, Public Vaults exhibition, William G. McGowan Theater, and Lawrence F. O'Brien changing exhibit gallery.  With visitation far exceeding expectations, the National Archives Experience is the new "must-see" destination for tourists and Washingtonians alike.

"Visitors come to the National Archives in large numbers to discover and learn from their past.  Here they can glimpse that past through the documents dealing with the actual events and the people who have influenced the most pivotal moments in our nation's history," said Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein.  "Our 'Public Vaults' exhibition is arguably the best exhibit on American history anywhere in the world," he added.

The National Archives has welcomed over 800,000 visitors so far during the inaugural year of the Public Vaults Exhibition (November '04 - July '05), far surpassing initial projections and exceeding the previous year's numbers for the same time by nearly 40%.  Figures for June and July of 2005 alone - over 275,000 visitors - exceed last year's figures by over 50%.  Not only are more people of all ages visiting, they are staying longer.  A survey taken before the 2003 reopening of the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom and the 2004 opening of the Public Vaults found that only 13% of visitors stayed more than an hour.  Earlier this year, that figure jumped to nearly 50% of visitors reporting a visit of more than an hour.

The National Archives Experience is made possible by a public/private partnership between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Foundation for the National Archives, which is working as the private sector partner to support the creation of these new exhibitions and educational programs and resources:

Public Vaults Exhibition

Opened in November 2004, the Public Vaults exhibition brings visitors beyond the Rotunda and creates the feeling of entering the stacks and vaults of the National Archives.  Containing over 1,100 records and 22 state-of-the-art interactives stations, the exhibition shows the raw materials from which history is made, while also relaying compelling personal stories of both our nation's leaders and "ordinary" Americans.

Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom

On permanent display are the Charters of Freedom - the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights, praised by President George Bush as "the most cherished material possessions of a great and good nation."  The President encouraged "fellow citizens [to] come to this rotunda and see firsthand the work of our founding fathers."  Attendance figures show people have heeded his advice. "A New World is at Hand" exhibit surrounds the charters and presents a selection of milestone documents that chronicle the creation of the Charters in the 18th century and their impact on the course of history in the United States and worldwide.

William G. McGowan Theater

Opened in September 2004, the elegant William G. McGowan Theater is a centerpiece of the National Archives Experience.  By day the McGowan Theater continuously shows the new 11-minute introductory film "Democracy Starts Here."  By night, this theater is rapidly becoming one of the nation's leading centers for documentary film and a forum for programs that explore American history, democracy and government.

Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery 

Opened in December 2004, the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery is a new 3,000 square-foot gallery for special and traveling exhibitions at the National Archives.  Exhibitions in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery explore newsworthy and timely themes, issues, events, and turning points in our nation's history.  The current "Americans in Paris" exhibition explores the history of Americans in the City of Light, from Benjamin Franklin to Ernest Hemingway.  Extended by popular demand until October 10, 2005. 

The Archives Shop

Visitors have one last important stop to make before they leave - a special shop where they can purchase and take home some treasures of their own.  Archives Shop sales have far exceeded initial projections.  By far, the most popular items are reproductions of the Charters of Freedom, as well as books on these and other "national treasures" displayed in the Rotunda, the Public Vaults, and the Lawrence F. O'Brien exhibit gallery.

Information and Hours:

The National Archives Experience is free and open to the public.  The National Archives building is located between 7th and 9th Streets, NW with the entrance to the National Archives Experience on Constitution Avenue.  The nearest Metro stop is the Archives/Navy Memorial stop on the Yellow or Green Line, at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street directly across the street from the Archives building. See information on individual and group tours.

Summer Season (Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day)
Daily 10:00 A.M. - 9:00 P.M.

Fall & Winter Seasons (Day after Labor Day through March 31)
Daily 10:00 A.M. - 5:30 P.M.
Closed Dec. 25

Spring Season (April 1 through the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend)
Daily 10:00 A.M. - 7:00 P.M.

For the most up-to-date information on events and programs, visit

To contact the National Archives, please call 1-866-272-6272 or 1-86-NARA-NARA; (TDD) 301-837-0482.

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For Press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 202-501-5526.


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