The National Archives Celebrates Constitution Day
Press Release · Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Washington, DC…The National Archives celebrates the 220th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution throughout September with exciting public programs including a special family day on Sunday, September 16, and a panel discussion on racial equality on Constitution Day, September 17. These events are free and open to the public.

The National Archives has the original Constitution on permanent display in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom of the National Archives Building, located on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, Washington, DC.

Constitution Day Family Celebration - Happy Birthday U.S. Constitution!
Sunday, September 16, 12 noon – 3 p.m., Presidential Conference Center

  • Explore historical documents that demonstrate the Constitution in action. Take on the role of a “Presidential researcher” and match original documents to sections of the Constitution (Boeing Learning Center, noon–3 p.m.)
  • Sign the Constitution (Presidential Conference Room Lobby, 12:00 - 3:00 p.m.)
  • View the film The Making of the Constitution, 1997, 25 minutes (Jefferson Room, noon and 1 p.m.)
  • Have a piece of birthday cake and meet President James Madison, Father of the Constitution, and First Lady Dolley Madison (Washington Room, 12:30–2 p.m.)
  • Meet Syl Sobel, author of The U.S. Constitution and You (Washington Room, 1–2 p.m.)
  • Join Mrs. Madison as she describes White House entertainment in the early 19th century (Jefferson Room, 1:45–2:30 p.m.)

Unfinished Business: Racial Equality in American History
Monday, September 17, at 7 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater
What social and political factors have influenced the path of racial progress, and how have law and court decisions contributed to American equality? In the newest volume from Oxford University’s Inalienable Rights series, Unfinished Business: Racial Equality and American History, Michael J. Klarman offers a succinct account of racial equality and civil rights throughout American history. Archivist Allen Weinstein moderates a panel featuring Klarman, historian John Hope Franklin, and Lonnie Bunch, director, National Museum of African American History and Culture. A book signing will follow the program.

Related programs and exhibits at the National Archives:

School House to White House: The Education of the Presidents
Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery
As a boy, Richard Nixon won an oratorical contest by expounding upon “The Ever-Increasing Strength of the Constitution.” Learn this and more in the new family-friendly "School House to White House" exhibition. Documents, artifacts, photos and films drawn from the collections of the National Archives Presidential Libraries reveal fascinating details about children that would grow up to be presidents. Journey back to a time of one room school houses, large public schools, and private tutors. See these future presidents as young sports stars, choir members, and musicians. Watch them mature into serious college and military academy students. Together these experiences demonstrate the variety of educational and extra-curricular experiences that trained and influenced our nation’s future leaders.

The 1297 Magna Carta
West Rotunda Gallery
The 1297 Magna Carta is on display in the Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives. In 1215 on the plains of Runnymede an assembly of barons confronted the despotic King John of England and demanded that traditional rights be recognized, written down, confirmed with the royal seal, and sent to each of the counties to be read to all freemen. King John agreed, binding himself and his heirs to grant “to all freemen of our kingdom” the rights and liberties described in the great charter, or Magna Carta. Thus King John placed himself and England’s future sovereigns and magistrates within the rule of law.

Between 1215 and 1297, Magna Carta was reissued by each of King John’s successors. The 1297 Magna Carta, confirmed by Edward I, was entered on the English statute rolls and thus became the foundation document of English common law. Only four originals of the 1297 Magna Carta remain. The 1297 Magna Carta on display at the National Archives was purchased by the Perot Foundation in 1984 and is on indefinite loan to the National Archives. It is the only Magna Carta permanently residing in the United States.

A New World Is at Hand
Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom
Flanking the permanent display of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights is the exhibition, “A New World Is at Hand.” Featuring a selection of the National Archives’ most treasured documents, this exhibition reveals the drama, passion, and poignancy of the struggle for freedom that has defined much of U.S. history. On Constitution Day, we call particular attention to George Washington’s own working copy of the first printed draft of the constitution. Other highlights of the exhibit include Benjamin Franklin’s draft of the Articles of Confederation, a working draft of the amendments that would become the Bill of Rights, and a document from the milestone Marbury v. Madison Supreme Court case.

The Public Vaults
This permanent interactive exhibition – literally located behind the wall of the display of the Constitution – is organized according to the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. The Public Vaults creates the feeling of going into the stacks and vaults of the National Archives, and offers visitors a “hands on” examination of the workings of the three branches of government, as outlined in the Constitution.

Special online educational program - Teaching With Documents: U.S. Constitution Workshop
What does the light bulb have to do with the U. S. Constitution? Or the board game “Monopoly”? How about the letter you wrote to the president when you were in elementary school? The answer to all three questions is: plenty—if you know your Constitution. Learn more.

Exhibition Hours and Contact Information:
Summer exhibit hours through Labor Day are 10 a.m.–7 p.m. daily. Beginning September 4, hours are 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving and December 25. The National Archives is fully accessible. If you need to request an accommodation (e.g., sign language interpreter) for a public program please e-mail or call 202-357-5000 at least two weeks prior to the event to ensure proper arrangements are secured.

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For press information contact the Public Affairs office at 202-357-5300.


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