The National Archives about to get a publicity boost from the new film National Treasure, in which treasure hunters set about to steal the Declaration of Independence (in view at the National Archives) in order to "protect it" (cruel to be kind).
Coincidentally (I assume), in real life the Archives have just opened an enthralling "public vaults" exhibit:
- The Public Vaults display at any given time about 1,100 records-originals or facsimiles of documents, photographs, maps, drawings, film or audio clips, allowing you to see the raw materials of our American democracy. Documents range from important treaties and legislation dealing with grave matters of state to snippets of the fascinating stories of individual citizens such as letters to the President and citations for military bravery.
....You begin your tour of the Public Vaults in the Record of America. This central pathway connects our Public Vaults and takes you on a journey through time and the changing technology of records.
From George Washington's handwritten letters to Abraham Lincoln’s wartime telegrams, most of the textual records in the Record of America are originals and will change from year to year. Don't miss the 1823 Copper Plate of the Declaration of Independence or the facsimile of the Emancipation Proclamation, both of which are on permanent display.
Branching off of this pathway are five "vaults." In addition to more great original records, the vaults feature new electronic tools that will allow you to explore fragments of our past in astonishing detail.
Each of the Public Vaults draws its themes from words in the Preamble to the Constitution:
We the People – records of family and citizenship;
To Form a More Perfect Union – records of liberty and law;
Provide for the Common Defense – records of war and diplomacy;
Promote the General Welfare – records of frontiers and firsts; and
To Ourselves and Our Posterity – keeping records for future generations.
"We the People" focuses on family and the rights of citizenship. Here, you'll learn that the National Archives has records about not only important and famous people but also ordinary Americans. In this vault, you might help someone establish U.S. citizenship or learn how to research your own family history though documents such as immigration records, naturalization papers, census schedules, draft cards, and homestead applications. You'll also explore records about Native Americans, early settlers from Europe, people who instantly became Americans when their region was annexed, and the story of freed slaves during Reconstruction.