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Archivally Correct

Another Washington institution diminished.

Aug 11, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 45 • By ANDREW FERGUSON
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At last visitors do get to ascend, though without grandeur. Off to the side of the exhibit, opposite the gift shop, a marble staircase leads to the rotunda where the nation’s charters are displayed. Earlier generations of curators and archivists referred to this room as “the shrine.” Now the word is used ironically if at all. After the bludgeoning administered by “Records of Rights,” the chance to see the Declaration and the Constitution seems less a patriotic mission than
an afterthought. You enter through an unassuming side door. The little steps that used to raise you to eye level with the Declaration are gone, along with the imposing bronze showcase that set it above and apart. Now the founding documents are encased hip high, so you can look down on them. 

What an attraction for tourists! I’ve been to the Archives a few times lately, and I can’t measure the reaction of the Americans who have come from all over. Are they surprised to learn that the caretakers of the country’s patrimony are so contemptuous of it? Or is it old news by now?

At least the old grand stairway is still there, outside, on the other side of the great bronze doors. It’s only used as an exit, however, and nowadays the summer glare and clamor of Constitution Avenue come as a relief. 

Andrew Ferguson is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.

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