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Internships and Fellowships

Constitution Annotated Enters New Era

LC Gazette, Volume 32, pp. 3

Wister Hitt, Julia Jimenez and Zach Sanders demonstrate their work with CONAN. Photo Credit:  Courtesy of Zach Sanders

Author: By Erin Doherty

For more than 100 years, “The Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation” has served as the nation’s pre-eminent constitutional law resource. Now in its second century, the Constitution Annotated (or CONAN, as it is commonly called) is poised to become modernized to reach a broader audience, including children, teens and young adults.

“The Constitution is the most important legal document in our country,” said Karen Lewis, assistant director of the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service (CRS). “Recognizing this, Congress, over 100 years ago, instructed and later mandated in federal law that the librarian of Congress prepare and revise a Constitution of Record – that is, a document written in plain English that explains the Constitution and how the Supreme Court has interpreted it to members of Congress and the public.”
CRS is responsible for producing the Constitution Annotated, which is currently available as an almost 3,000-page volume or PDF. This summer, CRS turned to its three Library of Congress junior fellows – Wister Hitt, Julia Jimenez and Zach Sanders – for ideas about making the Constitution more accessible to young people.

The result was “CONAN in the Classroom: Modernizing the Constitution Annotated for the General Public, Educators and Researchers.”

The junior fellows worked with experts throughout the Library to identify primary Library resources that are both pertinent to understanding the Constitution and appealing to young people. Then, they designed materials that educators can use to teach students about the Constitution.

“We conducted offline research in the Manuscript Division, Rare Book and Special Collections, the Prints and Photographs Division, the Law Library and more,” said Sanders, a student at George Washington University.

At the end of the summer, they had created three finished products: a pamphlet showcasing the Library’s many resources on the Constitution, a teacher’s guide to CONAN and a mock website featuring CONAN and other Library constitutional treasures, which they hope will become Constitution.gov, an educational resource accessible to the general public, including young Americans.

“We hope that our efforts will bring more awareness to CONAN and the unparalleled resources of the Library for educators, researchers and the general public,” Sanders said.

Bringing the Constitution Annotated to students will mark a new chapter in its evolution. In addition to including educational materials designed for children, CONAN, as part of its modernization, will also be available on a new user-friendly, easily searchable, web-based platform that showcases the Library’s many treasures on the Constitution.

Lewis explained what she thought made the junior fellows’ work on the project successful.
“The junior fellows brought enthusiasm and creativity to the project,” Lewis said. “Most important, it was the collaboration with the many experts throughout the Library, who generously shared their knowledge and time with the junior fellows, that made the endeavor a success.
“Going forward, continued collaboration will bring to fruition the dream of making CONAN and all of the Library’s constitutional treasures accessible to an expanded audience, including children, teens and young adults.” 

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