Been thinking a lot about Veteran’s Day this year and all those who have served in one of the branches of our Armed Forces. This may be due to the craziness of the heated presidential election, but either way, I have been feeling extremely thankful for those who had served as well as their families. I have also been thinking about some of the more patriotic and historical places I have been and how much they have touched me. I really enjoyed our visit to the Washington Monument but there was something enormously special about the National Archives Building we visited during a trip to our National Capitol in Washington D.C. in October of 2000. It was one of those experiences which I will never forget. The only thing closer was our visit to Fort McHenry in the Baltimore area.
For those of you who don’t know, or have never been, the National Archives Building holds the original copies of the three main formative documents of the United States and its government: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Along with these culturally significant documents, the National Archives also contains exhibits with other important American historical documents such as the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, the Emancipation Proclamation, and collections of photography as well as other American artifacts. Sadly we weren’t able to take any pictures inside the archives as photography is prohibited in all exhibition areas. 🙁
A little bit about the museum. Besides the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, which houses the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, it is also the home of the Public Vaults permanent exhibit gallery; the David M. Rubenstein Gallery, the Lawrence F. O’Brien temporary exhibit gallery; the Boeing Learning Center; and the William G. McGowan Theater. Check out their website for more information about what is available in each gallery. We spent most of our time in the Rotunda and the Public Vaults. It was so fascinating.
As you said earlier, you can’t take pictures (understandingly), but they wouldn’t have done the museum justice anyway. You had to be there to feel the power. Even though it may be corny, I felt the power in that room of those that made such hard decisions so many years ago. I could still feel it in the present day as if it had just happened. I never in a million years expected to feel anything like that. Pretty crazy, but cool.
We were there in October, and there were A LOT of people there, but it wasn’t as crazy as it would have been during the tourist season. They say it can get pretty bad during the summer and holidays. Thinking about visiting the National Museum? If so, you don’t need reservations, but they are strongly recommended. If you don’t have reservations you can wait in the general public entry line, but the lines could be long and most of it is outside. There is a convenience fee of $1.00 but I feel that is so worth it. They also have guided tours on certain days, but we didn’t know about them until it was too late :(. Maybe next time we are there we can catch a tour. Sounds like it might be fascinating. Here is a link again to their website.
Like I said earlier, I was looking forward to visiting but never realized how touched or moved I would be to be in the same room as these documents and be able to see them with my own eyes. It was truly exciting and humbling at the same time. Something I will never forget. One note of history before I end this post – On June 19, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation creating the National Archives as an independent agency, and on November 5, 1935, 120 National Archives staff members moved into the uncompleted building.
National Archives Visitor Information
701 Constitution Avenue, NW [between 7th & 9th Streets]
Washington, DC 20408
Things to Do and See
Explore their five exhibition galleries and enjoy other family-friendly activities:
- The Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom–home of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights
- Records of Rights in the Rubenstein Gallery, featuring a 1297 Magna Carta
- Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote in the O’Brien Gallery
- Featured Document Exhibit in the East Rotunda Gallery
- Public Vaults Permanent Interactive Exhibit Gallery
- Hands-on activities for visitors of all ages in the Boeing Learning Center
- See our Calendar of Events for current programs and special activities
It is recommended that you allow at least 90 minutes to visit the exhibit galleries. We definitely spent more time than that, lol However it was so worth it, and hope to do it again one day soon.
Self Guided Tours
As stated, self-guided timed-entry reservations are offered every 15 minutes beginning at 10:30 a.m. and continue until 90 minutes before closing, daily. Individuals may reserve up to 20 spaces. Groups may reserve up to 100 spaces for a timed entry (note – since only 55 spaces are available for each interval, any order of more than 50 spaces may cross multiple intervals). The service charge for online reservations is $1.00 per person; admission to all of the National Archives Museum exhibits is free. Tickets are available 90 days in advance. Timed-Entry reservation holders use the Museum’s general public entrance near the corner of 9th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW.
The National Archives offer guided tours of the National Archives Museum at 9:45 a.m., Monday through Friday, for individuals and groups of up to 15 people. It is a one-hour docent-led guided tour and includes the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom (home to the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights) and the Public Vaults permanent, interactive exhibit gallery. The service charge for online reservations is $1.00 per person; admission to all of the National Archives Museum exhibits is free. On a side note, the tickets are available 90 days in advance.
There is no parking available at the museum. There is limited metered parking along Constitution Avenue, or visitors may take advantage of a number of public parking garages within a few blocks of the building. Use of the Metro system is highly recommended. Metro: Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter (Green/Yellow Lines)
Visitors are required to go through a security screening. Leave backpacks, large bags, and metal jewelry behind in order to expedite the security check. Backpacks, luggage, and other personal items are permitted in the museum but must remain with the visitors at all times. There are no lockers or a coat check available. r FREE!
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