National Archives Announces New Ban on Photography
Press Release · Tuesday, January 26, 2010
On January 25, 2010, the National Archives announced in the Federal Register that filming, photographing, and videotaping by the public will be prohibited in all exhibition areas in the National Archives Building, Washington, DC, beginning February 25, 2010. The primary impetus for the new regulation was concern that the Charters of Freedom (the Declaration, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights) and other original documents on display in the National Archives Experience were at risk from exposure to flash photography.
The announcement followed a lengthy period of internal analysis and discussion and a 60-day comment period in which the public was invited to offer input. In spite of a more than 30-year-old regulation explicitly stating that flash photography was prohibited, prominent signs stating the policy throughout the exhibition areas, and security guards reminding the public, Archives staff estimated that the documents were subjected to approximately 50,000 flashes a year. While enforcement of this policy has always been a National Archives priority, new cameras with automatic flash have made the policy almost impossible to enforce.
The original documents displayed in the National Archives Experience are fragile and subject to fading from light. The National Archives must balance its commitment to making these founding documents available to the public with its mandate to preserve and protect them for future generations. Years of research and testing by top scientists have resulted in state-of-the-art encasements to protect the Charters of Freedom. Environmental recommendations and guidelines that include careful temperature and humidity controls, light levels below three foot candles, and light filters to remove ultraviolet radiation are closely adhered to in order to provide additional protection for our nation’s heritage.
After close examination of the policy and consultation with National Archives preservation experts, the Archives determined that barring photography in the exhibition areas would help protect our nation’s heritage for future generations.
Visitors who want an image of the Charters of Freedom or other original documents on display in the National Archives Museum may download them at no cost from www.archives.gov or visit the Archives Shop.
For Press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.
This page was last reviewed on April 10, 2019.
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