National Archives: More than just the Charters

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by kwasiak on January 20, 2006

The National Archives is located on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets. The nearest metro stop is Archive-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter, which has an exit that comes out right across the street from the Archives. The station is located on the Yellow and Green Metro Lines. The Archives is open from 10am to 5:30pm daily from Labor Day to March 31 and 10am to 7pm from April 1 until Memorial Day weekend and 10am to 9pm from Memorial Day Weekend until Labor Day. It is closed on Christmas. The admission is free.

Most people come to the National Archives to see the Charters of Freedom and I will admit that I did not visit the Archives for a while because I thought that the Charters of Freedom were the only things on display. I learned that more was on display and rather enjoyed seeing the other exhibits and the Charters of Freedom.

I started my visit by watching the Democracy Starts Here film in the McGowan Theater. It is a great introductory to what the National Archives contains and has on display in its different exhibit areas. It also gives information on using the National Archives for genealogical research.

After the movie I went upstairs to the exhibit floor. I started in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery. This area is for changing exhibits that give visitors a glimpse at what the National Archives has in its non-exhibited collections. During my visit the exhibit on display was “The Way We Worked,” which is on display until May 29, 2006. The exhibit consisted almost entirely of photographs depicting people in the workplace. Like most of the things in the Archives, the photographs come from government agencies. Many of the photographs were taken as part of investigations or regular checks on how the companies treat their employees.

The next exhibit I went into was the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. Here in the very dim lit room you can see the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. Also, in this area are the Articles of Confederation, our failed first Constitution, and the original document for the Louisiana Purchase. While it is amazing to see the original Declaration of Independence, I suggest checking out the copy that can be seen in the Public Vaults exhibit. This copy is made from a 1800s printing plate that was made to preserve the way the Declaration of Independence looked when first created. The printing plate it is printed from is also in the case.

The Public Vaults is a very interactive area of the Archives. Here you can see documents relating to our nations history, as well as see video and hear audio relating to our history. You can listen to recordings of Presidential phone calls. Some of the audio is very hard to hear, as the recording technology had not yet been perfected. You can also make a D-day video and make your own United States seal.
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, Nw
Washington, DC, 20408
(202) 357-5350

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