BIG! Exhibition Celebrating National Archives 75th Anniversary
Press Release · Friday, December 5, 2008

Press Release
December 5, 2008

BIG! An Exhibition Celebrating the National Archives 75th Anniversary

Opening March 13, 2009

NARA 75th AnniversaryWashington, DC…The National Archives celebrates its 75th year in 2009 with a new exhibition featuring big records, big events, and big ideas. BIG! opens Friday, March 13, 2009, in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Building. From the 13-foot scroll of the Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States, to the size 22 sneakers of basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal, the items in the exhibition are pieces of the American story—writ large.

The exhibition will be on display through January 3, 2010, and is free and open to the public. The National Archives is located on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. Exhibit Hall hours are 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving and December 25.

At a time when many people struggle to see documents and images on smaller and smaller screens, the National Archives presents the nation’s original record in its full-scale glory. For example:

  • A section of an enormous 13-by-13-foot Civil War-era map of the Gettysburg battlefield will be shown. With a scale of one inch to 200 feet, it shows the terrain at the site of Pickett’s charge, one of the great infantry charges in military history, and the site where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address.

  • As evidence that William Howard Taft was almost certainly the biggest man to serve as President of the United States, the exhibit presents the 1909 order for a bathtub and other special items to accommodate Taft’s 300-plus-pound frame. A replica of the massive tub will be on view.

  • The military personnel file of General Douglas McArthur is one of the biggest in the holdings of the National Archives National Personnel Records Center. The many thousands of items in the file chronicle the famous 5-Star General’s half-century of military service. Included is a Presidential directive indicating a big clash of power between military and civilian command.

  • The National Archives will display a treasure that embodies an idea so big that it engendered the birth of the nation. It is one of only 25 surviving copies from the first printing of the Declaration of Independence by John Dunlap. This broadside was inserted into the “rough journal” of the Continental Congress in the July 4, 1776, entry.

Throughout 2009, in addition to BIG!, the National Archives is planning a wide range of events to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its establishment. A special web site ( will shine a spotlight on defining moments in the agency’s history through the decades with photo galleries, notices of special events at dozens of agency sites nationwide, a new National History Day award for middle and high school students, and a new Excellence in Genealogy Scholarship award. The web site will also feature a guest book for researchers to share their stories of discovery and of how the agency has a made a difference in their lives. Check in the coming months for full details.

For more information about BIG! or to obtain images of the items included in the exhibition, call the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.


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