After being on display since last April, a major treasure of the Library of Congress—Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence, with edits by his fellow founding fathers John Adams and Benjamin Franklin—will be taken off display in the Library’s “Creating the United States” Exhibition in the Thomas Jefferson Building after Oct. 29, 2008 in accordance with document-preservation guidelines. It is not expected to return to public display for several years.
The draft Declaration will be replaced in the exhibition, which is slated to run through spring 2011, by George Mason’s draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which served as a model for the Declaration of Independence. A related interactive station lets Library visitors explore a digitized version of the draft Declaration of Independence and examine its relationship with Mason’s Declaration.
“The day ‘Creating the United States’ opened to the public last April, historian David McCullough said it was the one exhibition every American should see on a visit to Washington, D.C.,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
“This draft Declaration of Independence is one of our most outstanding Library of Congress treasures, not only because of the meaning of the document in our history, but also because it allows us to share in the creative, collaborative process that brought our nation into existence,” Billington said.
“Creating the United States” also features President George Washington’s handwritten inaugural address in 1789 and the copy of the Bill of Rights used by John Beckley, a clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and the nation’s first Librarian of Congress. The exhibition, through the display of the original documents augmented by interactive and media stations, helps visitors understand the process of crafting the founding documents and underscores the effect they have had in the world’s foremost democracy.
“Even with our full array of conservation techniques – protective glass, carefully controlled light, humidity, temperature – treasures as fragile as Thomas Jefferson’s draft Declaration of Independence can only be displayed for a brief period of time,” said Kimberli Curry, acting director of the Library’s Interpretive Programs Office. “Such precautions ensure that we will be able to share these important items with generations to come.”
“Creating the United States” is on display on the second floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E., Washington D.C. Exhibition hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
In addition to “Creating the United States,” two other exhibitions also continue in the Jefferson Building as part of the “Library of Congress Experience.” They are “Exploring the Early Americas,” an exhibition telling the story of the Americas before Columbus, the drama of the encounter between native cultures and Europeans, and the profound growth of knowledge resulting from the encounters, which features the 1507 Waldseemüller Map that first named America; and “Thomas Jefferson’s Library,” featuring thousands of original volumes that provided the foundation for the Library of Congress and its universal collections.
Established in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its Web site at www.loc.gov
and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized Web site at www.myLOC.gov