Last Chance to see National Archives 1297 Magna Carta Until 2012
Press Release · Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Washington, DC

The National Archives has announced that Tuesday, March 1, 2011, is the final day for the public to view the 1297 Magna Carta before it is removed from display for a year to undergo preparations for re-encasement. The 1297 Magna Carta is on loan to the National Archives from David M. Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group.

The National Archives Building is located on Constitution Avenue and 9th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. Museum hours are 10 am to 5:30 pm, daily, free admission. Metro stop Archives/Navy Memorial on the yellow and green lines.

The only original Magna Carta permanently in the United States will be taken off display for a year so National Archives conservators may examine and stabilize the parchment before placing it in a new state-of-the-art encasement. This new enclosure, designed and fabricated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is based on an original design used to protect the Charters of Freedom--the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. These documents, which are on permanent display in the National Archives Rotunda, were re-encased in a multi-year project that was completed in 2003 by the National Archives in partnership with NIST.

The document will return to display in March 2012. When it returns, Magna Carta will have a new protective encasement and a new display case. The case will incorporate an interactive exhibit allowing visitors to easily read the document for the first time. Magna Carta is written in Latin. The new display, which will allow close examination of the document and will have a translation feature, will also place new emphasis on the connections between Magna Carta and American history, particularly American legal history. This will make it easier to understand the elements of the document that influenced the United States’ founding charters: the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.


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.

Between 1215 and 1297, Magna Carta was reissued by each of King John’s successors. To meet his debts from foreign wars, King Edward I imposed new and harsher taxes in 1297. This provoked another confrontation between the king and the barons, resulting not only in the reissue of Magna Carta, but for the first time its entry into the official Statute Rolls of England. The 1297 document represents the transition of Magna Carta from a brokered agreement to the foundation of English law.

Only four originals of the 1297 Magna Carta remain. By the 17th century, the one displayed at the National Archives was in the possession of the Brudenell family, the earls of Cardigan. It was acquired by the Perot Foundation in 1984 and purchased by David Rubenstein in 2007. David Rubenstein has placed Magna Carta on loan to the National Archives as a gift to the American people.

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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

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