National Archives Welcomes Millionth 2005 Visitor
Press Release · Thursday, September 29, 2005

Washington, DC…The National Archives welcomed its millionth visitor on Thursday, September 29, 2005 at 1:15 PM. Visitor Ariya Shah, traveling with her parents from Austin, Texas, was greeted by Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein. The Archivist said: “I am delighted to welcome our millionth visitor this year. This milestone confirms that the National Archives is a “must-see” destination for Washingtonians and tourists alike.” Expressing surprise as the person reaching this milestone, 23-month-old Ariya saw the bunch of balloons, smiled at the Archivist and said “Wow!”

In Washington for the American College of Emergency Physicians conference, the Shahs were walking on the National Mall before heading to the airport. Proud parents Gaurang and Bijal Shah explained that although they had never been to the National Archives, they decided to visit to show their daughter the Constitution. Dr. Shah is an emergency room doctor who has worked tirelessly in recent weeks to help evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Record numbers of visitors have come to the National Archives 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 this year. “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 the Archivist. “Our award-winning ‘Public Vaults’ exhibition is arguably the best exhibit on American history anywhere in the world," he added.

This attendance milestone far surpasses initial projections and exceeds the National Archives 2004 numbers for the same time period by more than 40%. Not only are more people of all ages visiting, they are staying longer. A survey taken prior to the renovation 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 interactive 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 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. New items in the shop include the books The Public Vaults Unlocked: Discovering American History in the National Archives and The Charters of Freedom “A New World is at Hand.”

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 on Constitution Avenue. Metro stop: Archives/Navy Memorial. See information about individual and group tours.

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

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

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For further information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Office at 202-501-5526.


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