This year's Fourth of July marks the 225th anniversary of America's founding fathers proclaiming independence from their mother country,England.
It's also the last day tourists and American history enthusiasts will have to see the founding documents before the exhibit is closed for two years.
In an effort to halt the deterioration inside the National Archives and Records Administration Building,the Rotunda Exhibit with the Charters of Freedom,which include the Declaration of Independence,Bill of Rights and Constitution,will be closed from July 5 until a later date in 2003.
“We hope that people understand that we're trying to create a new environment that will have more variety,more documents,and better angles of these documents to be available for everyone,” NARA spokeswoman Susan Cooper said.
The first steps of the renovation,which is estimated to cost $125 million,will include re-encasement of the Charters of Freedom,development of a Genealogy and Community History Center and overall updates on the building,Cooper said.
With expanded visitor areas and larger encasements,the exhibit will house additional documents influencing the Charters of Freedom,restored Declaration of Independence and Constitution murals. The display will show of all four pages of the Constitution.
The Magna Carta,which has been on loan from the Perot Foundation,will likely make its way back into the Rotunda,Cooper said.
Visitors will have easier access by using sloping walkways that lead to street-level entrances on Constitution Avenue. Once inside,visitors can use either the staircases or elevators to reach the Rotunda,which will give more access for people in wheelchairs and children by removing the steps in front of the exhibit.
“Currently,we can get about 6,000 people in to see the exhibit daily during our peak season,” Cooper said. “Think about how many more people will be able to see American history by the expansion.”
Renovators and examiners handling the documents,which haven't left their cases in 50 years,have designed cases with better control of humidity levels for the documents,which ensure their physical protection and environment,Cooper said.
“It's good we're getting new encasements because we can get new display cases that will hold the encasements,which will ensure better security for them,” she said.
People who can't make a visit before closing are able to track the documents' restoration on the NARA's website at www.archives.gov. While the hours aren't set for when it reopens,Cooper said no admission fee will be added and hours will likely remain as they are; from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily during the summer and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily during the winter.
To honor the Fourth of July holiday,NARA will hold an all-day celebration,beginning at 9 a.m. on the steps of the building. Festivities will include signing facsimiles of the Declaration of Independence,listening to Declaration readings,hearing patriotic music and viewing the Charters of Freedom being raised and lowered into their vault for the last time.