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Remarks by Raymond Kammer, NIST Director

Unveiling of Prototype Encasement
for the
Charters of Freedom

National Archives
March 17, 1999


Archivist Carlin, Congressman Kolbe, Congressman Hoyer, Mr. Brink, Ms. Rimel, Ladies and Gentlemen ...

As baseball great Yogi Berra once put it "it's deju vu all over again."

Nearly forty-seven years ago in December 1952, Allen Astin, the director of what was then the Commerce Department's National Bureau of Standards, stood on this same spot and helped dedicate state-of-the-art cases that were designed and built to protect the Charters of Freedom.

Almost a half-century later, I have the great honor to represent NBS's successor, the National Institute of Standards And Technology, as we return to the National Archives to help kick off the interagency effort to put the Charters in new and improved cases by the year 2003.

We are very, very proud to be on the team again.

Thirty men and women at NIST from four of our laboratories -- manufacturing engineering, materials science and engineering, physics, and chemical science and technology -- have been working with their colleagues from the Archives, NASA and Heery International to design, build, test and eventually, install the lighter, stronger, leak-resistant and more document-friendly encasements that are displayed here today.

But it's not just keeping with tradition that brings NIST back to the Charters preservation team. Archives officials recognize that NIST scientists and engineers -- like their counterparts who served the old Bureau of Standards 47 years ago -- possess the nation's best expertise in computer design, machining, metalwork, environmental control and the other manufacturing skills necessary to make the new cases a reality. And once again -- as in 1952 -- our people, in close collaboration with the other project partners, have done the job.

I think that when you examine the prototype, you'll be amazed at what's been accomplished. The new cases embody the best that manufacturing and preservation technology have to offer.

For example:

  • the documents will be mounted so that they never come in contact with the glass;

  • the frame and base are cut from single pieces of metal to avoid seams and joints;

  • the surfaces between the frame and base are highly polished and micromachined smooth so that a natural, effective seal is formed;

  • and best of all, unlike the current encasements, the new system will permit conservators to open and reseal the cases to examine the documents or modify the interior components.


At this time, I would like to recognize a very special Bureau of Standards alumnus who was able to join us for today's ceremony.

Carroll Creitz, on the staff of the NBS Chemistry Division in the 1950s, was a member of the team that created the current cases for the Charters. In fact, in the 1951 film that was taken when the Constitution was placed in its case, it is Carroll who is seen doing most of the work. Carroll ... please stand up and be recognized.

We are thrilled that you could be here today. The dedication and commitment to excellence that made your team's effort so successful has set the standard for our current preservation project. We promise to keep up the good work.

NIST's mission is all about serving the American public ... promoting economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards. Sometimes, we also get to be a part of history in the process. This is one of those times.

Helping preserve the documents that have preserved our freedoms and rights for more than 200 years is a honor of incredible proportions ... and a tremendous responsibility. NIST -- as NBS did before it -- accepts the challenge and is proud to again be on the preservation team.

Today, as we unveil the prototype for the charters' new encasements, we applaud the hard work it took to reach this milestone. NIST looks forward to sharing in many more successes and milestones during the course of this project ... and most importantly, in the celebration when we dedicate all of the new cases in 2003.

Thank you.