National Archives Announces Opening Of 'Public Vaults'
Press Release · Friday, November 12, 2004

Washington, DC

Major Permanent Exhibition Highlights Archives Treasures

Washington, DC …In a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, November 12, 2004, Archivist of the United States John W. Carlin will open the new National Archives permanent exhibition, entitled the "Public Vaults." This exhibition, which is a public-private partnership between the National Archives and the Foundation for the National Archives, is free and open to the public. The National Archives Building is located on Constitution Avenue at 7th Street, NW, facing the National Mall.

"The "Public Vaults" will shine a light on the vast holdings of the National Archives. It will take visitors into virtual stack areas to experience the wonder and excitement of discovering the importance and relevance of federal records. Through films, maps, photographs, documents, and specially-designed interactive devices, visitors will hear Presidents discuss some of the country’s greatest challenges, step into the boots of soldiers on the front lines, and follow an investigation of the sinking of the Titanic. Extraordinary and ordinary events reflecting the complex and colorful nature of our history will be highlighted in this exhibition.

Beyond the glamour of official treaties and public laws, this exhibition also highlights people who surprisingly appear in the government record. Small details such as the bogus birthdate on Louis Armstrong’s draft card, or the circuitous path taken by Yul Brynner to reach American shores, or Henry David Thoreau’s census record draw visitors to investigate further. Artifacts such as Abraham Zapruder’s movie camera that took the only complete film record of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the tape recorder used by Richard Nixon’s secretary, Rosemary Woods, to transcribe Watergate tapes remind visitors of milestone events in American history.

The Record of America, a timeline that runs the length of the exhibition space, will take visitors on a journey through time and the changing technology of communications from George Washington’s handwritten letters to Abraham Lincoln’s wartime telegrams, from satellite images of the former Soviet Union during the Cold War to the first White House website.

Off this central timeline are five "vaults" drawn from the Preamble to the Constitution: We the People; Form a More Perfect Union; Promote the General Welfare; Provide for the Common Defense; and To Ourselves and Our Posterity. Each of these five vaults will combine real documents, interactive exhibits, and immersive displays to open America’s records to the general public.

* * *

Visuals and additional materials are available to the media upon request.

For press information, please contact:

The National Archives
Public Affairs Staff
202-501-5526 or 301-837-1700
Resnicow Schroeder Associates
Elizabeth Chapman or Johanna Goldfeld
212-671-5159 or 212-671-5177


This page was last reviewed on July 10, 2018.
Contact us with questions or comments.