March 7, 2000 James Madison's Notes on the Constitutional Convention Go on Display in the "American Treasures" Exhibition

Eleventh Rotation of Items into Exhibition Since 1997

Contact: Recorded Announcement: (202) 707-3834
Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

In May 1787 a group of men convened in Philadelphia to overhaul the ineffectual Articles of Confederation under which the breakaway nation had been trying to govern itself since its victory over the British in 1781. Instead, the convention developed a totally new framework that would become the Constitution of the United States.

James Madison, a Virginian and leader among the 55 men gathered that hot summer in the Pennsylvania State House, took copious notes on the discussions and debates in the assembly. His notes serve today as an important blueprint for this historic event. A page from the notes is now on display in the Top Treasures case of the "American Treasures" exhibition, located in the Southwest Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building, through June 19. Hours for the exhibition are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Other items that can be seen with Madison's Notes in the Top Treasures case include:

  • Madison writing "The Federalist no. 10" (under the pseudonym Publius) in the pages of the New York Daily Advertiser on Nov. 22, 1787; a brilliant argument for majority rule, three branches of government, and a system of checks and balances that allowed a nation of diverse opinions and interests to flourish;
  • the working drafts of the Constitution of the United States from August and September of 1787, demonstrating the dramatic change in the opening sentence "We the People..."
  • the difficulties that ratification of the Constitution faced within the state governments as portrayed in Amos Doolittle's rare, 18th eighteenth-century cartoon The Looking Glass for 1787.

Unique and interesting items from the Library's collections are rotated into the "American Treasures" exhibition every four months, offering visitors a wider selection of objects to view as well as helping to preserve those materials that should not be exposed to light for long periods of time. This rotation of items has allowed visitors to see more than 1,000 different treasures from the varied and vast collections of the Library since the exhibition opened on May 1, 1997. Highlights of this 11th rotation include:

  • The "Winter Count," a pictograph panel that marked noteworthy events in tribal life, including buffalo hunts, feuds with neighboring tribes and famines, prepared by a member of the BrulĂ© Dakota in the early 20th century and passed from one generation to the next;
  • A page from Martin Luther King Jr's incomparable "I Have a Dream" speech submitted to the Library of Congress for copyright deposit in 1963;
  • Frederick Cook's diary of his expedition to the North Pole in which he records reaching his goal on April 21, 1908 (although that claim was later disproved);
  • Manuscript of John Philip Sousa's "Washington Post March" and a piccolo belonging to a member of Sousa's band.

A new audio wand, free to anyone entering the exhibition, features recordings from the Library's collections that complement selected items and connect the viewer with the actual "sounds of history," including popular songs of World War I, bandleader Duke Ellington's first recording, the voice of Ernest Hemingway, and an eyewitness to the trinity test, the first nuclear bomb explosion. The audio wand also provides a short, narrated walking tour of the Library's Great Hall.


PR 00-008
ISSN 0731-3527