Although construction on the building began in 1931, in 1934, during the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a bill to officially establish a National Archives in the United States. Previously, U.S. Government records were scattered in different buildings throughout the country. However, the creation of the National Archives not only brought all of these important documents together, but also forced the Government to collect its records in a more organized fashion.
Today, the headquarters of the National Archives and Records Administration (or NARA), is in a large classical building in Washington, D.C. However, it has many smaller branches throughout the country, as well as separate Presidential Libraries for every U.S. President since Herbert Hoover. You can search the catalog of the National Archives here. In addition to housing the founding documents of the United States’ government, it also contains, photos, U.S. census records, Federal court records, and many other types of records. It even has records of Germany’s former Nazi Party, since the U.S. Army took them after World War II.
Unfortunately, when I visited NARA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., I did not have a chance to thoroughly go through the entire building. However, I did see the building’s highlight: the Founding Documents in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. These documents include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. They are all located in a high-ceilinged room with beautiful murals. Perhaps, this room most famously appears in the 2004 film, National Treasure, in which the protagonist tries to steal the Declaration of Independence, because it allegedly is a treasure map!
The National Archives has other famous documents on display as well. However, these are in a different section of the building called the “Public Vaults.” Unfortunately, I only saw glimpses of this area, but I do remember seeing the Magna Carta there. Only 4 copies of this British document, created in 1297, exist. The majority of the documents in the Public Vaults cover American history, and include documents written by U.S. Presidents, as well as documents that helped change American history. Since light can damage documents over time, I believe that many of the documents on display in the Public Vaults rotate. Other famous documents owned by NARA include the Louisiana Purchase, the Emancipation Proclamation, and a letter from Elvis Presley to President Richard Nixon.
Admission to the National Archives is free. However, in order to enter the building, you are required to go through a security check.
If I have been calculating correctly, this is my 100th post! This month also marks two years since I first began writing this blog. Although I have at least a year’s worth of places that I can still write about, and also hope to visit new places soon, I think that I will be taking an indefinite break from posting. At the very least, I will post less frequently for the rest of this summer.
Sources and Further Reading
“Captured German and Related Records on Microfilm.” National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/research/captured-german-records (accessed July 2, 2021)
“Founding Documents in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.” National Archives Museum. https://museum.archives.gov/founding-documents (accessed June 26, 2021).
“Frequently Asked Questions.” National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/faqs (accessed July 2, 2021).
“Information for Researchers at the National Archives at Washington, DC.” National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/dc/researcher-info (accessed June 26, 2021).
“Magna Carta.” National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured-documents/magna-carta (accessed July 2, 2021).
National Archives Catalog. https://catalog.archives.gov/#.WbE0-HZkmj8.link (accessed July 2, 2021).
“National Archives History.” National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/about/history (accessed July 2, 2021).
National Treasure. Directed by John Turteltaub. Burbank, CA: Walt Disney Pictures, 2004.
“National Treasure.” Internet Movie Database. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0368891/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1 (accessed July 2, 2021).
“Public Vaults.” National Archives Museum. https://museum.archives.gov/public-vaults (accessed June 26, 2021).
“Visit Us.” National Archives and Records Administration. https://www.archives.gov/locations (accessed June 26, 2021).
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Thank you for sending these out Esther!
Devar Emet Messianic Synagogue & Outreach 7800 Niles Ave Skokie, IL 60077 847-674-9146
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