If you were thinking of taking a trip to see the original Declaration of Independence, US Constitution or Bill of Rights, you’d better get to Washington, DC, before July 5. That’s when the Rotunda of the National Archives building will close its doors to the public until 2003 while its contents are examined and restored.
Since 1952, the “Charters of Freedom” have been housed there in helium-filled glass cases, which are now deteriorating. As part of the renovation, the historic documents will be cleaned and placed in new encasements that better protect them from environmental hazards such as light and moisture. The Rotunda’s facelift also includes restoring two 35-foot-long canvas murals that depict scenes from the documents’ signings. It will make the documents wheelchair-accessible and allow more items from the National Archives collection to be displayed for some 1 million visitors a year. The renovation also will improve the stacks and research areas, as well as enlarge the microfilm research room.