2015 Press Releases

National Archives Hosts Conference on Declaration of Independence on June 23, 2015
Press Release · Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Washington, DC

Scholars and educators gather to discuss “Punctuating Happiness”

Washington, DC…In advance of its traditional Fourth of July celebration, the National Archives, in partnership with the Institute for Advanced Study, will host a free conference on the Declaration of Independence titled “Punctuating Happiness,” from 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on June 23, 2015, in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC. The conference will be streamed live on the National Archives YouTube channel.

The conference is free and open to the public. Attendees should use the Special Events Entrance, located on the National Mall at Constitution Ave. and 7th Street, NW. Metro access on the Yellow and Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter station.

Inspired by the work of Danielle Allen, UPS Foundation Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study and author of Our Declaration, (Liveright 2014) and research paper “Punctuating Happiness,” the conference will explore the National Archives’ work in preserving the original Declaration of Independence, the diversity of the document’s textual tradition, how this diversity affects historical research, and how it is taught in schools.

Speakers will include National Archives Executive for Research Services Bill Mayer and National Archives Director of Conservation Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler; historians David Armitage, Holly Brewer, Woody Holton, Eric Slauter, and Richard Wendorf; the editor of the The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, James McClure; and Seth Kaller, a collector and broker of rare documents who has documented that the 1823 Stone Engraving is not the exact replica of the parchment that it is commonly thought to be.

Ms. Allen’s research raises questions about the transcription of the Declaration taken from the 1823 Stone engraving. Specifically, that the Stone engraving uses a period after “pursuit of happiness,” whereas the 1776 manuscripts by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Secretary for the Continental Congress Charles Thomson use semicolons or commas. She argues that the question of whether a period belongs there affects whether we read a sentence with three self-evident truths, or with five. And it affects whether we take the self-evident truths to concern primarily individual rights or rather to concern the positive value of government as a tool for securing individual rights.

About the National Archives

The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent Federal agency that serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, so people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. The National Archives ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The agency supports democracy, promotes civic education, and facilitates historical understanding of our national experience. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and on the Internet at Archives.gov.

Learn more about the National Archives Preservation Programs.

Watch a video on the preservation and re-encasement of the Declaration of Independence.

About the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS)

The Institute for Advanced Study, founded in 1930 as an independent institution in Princeton, NJ, is one of the world’s leading centers for basic research in the sciences and humanities, where the permanent faculty and visiting scholars have the freedom to pursue some of the deepest theoretical questions without pressure for immediate outcomes. Its reach has been multiplied many times over through the more than 7,000 scholars who have influenced entire fields of study as well as the work and minds of colleagues and students. www.ias.edu

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