The National Archives Building, Archives I, as seen from Constitution Avenue, Washington D.C.
Opened in 1935, the National Archives, informally referred to as "Archives I," in
Washington D.C. houses many significant documents of United States Constitutional
History. The main attraction of the site is that visitors can see original copies of the
United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of
Rights - the trifecta of United States Founding Documents.
This "Temple of Founding History" is free and open to the public, and it's located just
north of the National Mall at 700 Pennsylvania Ave. in Northwest Washington, D.C.
Within the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, National Archives
Before 1935, each branch of government was expected to maintain the historic
documents of its respective sector's founding history, but this practice led to many of
these vestiges of Constitutional History being lost or destroyed. Now, these important
papers are kept safe within the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom (seen above)
of the National Archives building.
Alongside the three formative documents listed above, the National Archives hosts the
1297 copy of the Magna Carta, originally signed by Edward I of England, the
Louisiana Purchase Treaty (1803), as well as the Emancipation Proclamation
There are no lines inside the rotunda, and visitors are welcome to roam from document
to document at their leisure, lingering over this or that piece of history for as long as
they wish. No flash photography is allowed, and the lighting is kept low to preserve the
documents from fading. The Declaration of Independence has seen the worst of this
fate, and due to severe light exposure during mid-twentieth century, is quite faded. They
have done a lot to reverse this degeneration, and the document, so elegantly penned by
Thomas Jefferson, has been restored to some degree over the last twenty years.
Also, thanks to the vigilant efforts of the National Archives and Records Administration,
many of the documents have been protected from a similar fate, ensuring that future
generations of Americans and visitors will have the opportunity to see these formative
documents for many years to come.
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Share-Alike license 3.0.