Since our nation's earliest days, leaders, philosophers, and even everyday citizens have advised that three vital documents—the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights—must never fade away. On the six pages of animal-skin parchment that make up these Charters of Freedom, the founding fathers set down the fundamental principles that have successfully guided our 225-year-old democracy.
A team of NIST scientists, engineers, and technicians helped to make certain that the original words are preserved and yet accessible so that they will inspire generations to come. The National Archives and Records Administration engaged NIST, along with NASA and Heery International, to design and make new state-of-the-art encasements to secure the documents against all types of environmental assault—harmful light, oxygen, humidity, and more. In all, NIST built nine glass encasements for NARA, custodian of the charters. Five hold the four pages of the Constitution and its transmittal page (which was signed by George Washington). One each is used for the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. The two prototype encasements built at the start of the project are used as spares.
Read about NIST's early work:
- Safeguarding the Charters of Freedom: Links to NIST at 100: Foundations for Progress.
- NBS Circular 505-Preservation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, July 2, 1951 (A 19-page account of the project, includes photographs)
The re-encasement was part of a larger project that included redesigning the National Archives Rotunda, where all six pages of the Charters of Freedom were placed back on display on September 17, 2003.
More on the Charters of Freedom from NARA web site:
- Charters of Freedom: A New World is at Hand
- Fast Facts About the Charters of Freedom
- Background Information on the Charters of Freedom
- Travels of the Charters of Freedom
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