A TOUR OF THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES

The Rotunda of the National Archives Building in downtown Washington DC, contains the permanent exhibit of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. A new exhibit called the Public Vaults displays over 1,000 fascinating records (originals or reproductions) from the National Archives holdings.

Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are in permanent display in the Rotunda. “A New World is at Hand” surrounds the Rotunda’s centerpiece cases. Presenting a selection of milestone documents, the exhibit chronicles the creation of the Charters of Freedom in the 18th century and their impact on the course of history in the United States and around the world.

The Public Vaults: This interactive exhibit invites visitors into the stacks and vaults of the National Archives to explore the raw material from which history is made. From Washington’s letters, Lincoln’s telegrams, and FDR’s fireside chats to UFO reports and declassified secrets of World War II, these documents chronicle both great national events and the lives of individual Americans.

Magna Carta: This foundation document of English common law was confirmed by Edward I in 1297. Only four originals of the 1297 Magna Carta remain, and only one permanently resides in the United States. Purchased by the Perot Foundation in 1984, it is on loan to the National Archives.

A component of the National Archives Experience is the 290-seat William G. McGowan Theater. By day, the McGowan Theater continuously shows a short signature film about the National Archives and twice daily shows a film about the Charters of Freedom.

* Visitors may wait in the general public line for entry at any time the museum is open. However, advance reservations are highly recommended and will allow visitors to avoid the exterior portion of the line to see the Charters of Freedom during the height of the tourist season (mid-March through Labor Day) and during holiday seasons such as the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

Without advance reservations, it can take up to 1 hour or more to enter the building during the months of March, April and May, Thanksgiving weekend, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and other times when there is heavy visitor traffic. We encourage you to come prepared for inclement weather while waiting outdoors.

Visitors with advance reservations enter through the Special Events door at Constitution Ave. and 7th Street and must be in line at the entrance at least 10 minutes prior to the start time of their visit. Security Screening will be conducted upon entry. Leave backpacks, large bags, and metal jewelry behind in order to expedite the security check.

There are NO REFUNDS on any ticket orders. When the Archives are unexpectedly closed due to special events, national security concerns, or for other reasons, it will NOT be able to refund any money. In these cases, attempts will be made to re-book your tickets to another date. An unexpected closure of the National Archives is the ONLY time tours may be re-booked.