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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

A Visit to the National Archives

The National Archives

The National Archives

There are a lot of options for sightseeing in Washington, D.C. But for any American citizen traveling there, you have a certain obligation, so to speak, to see a handful of things. At the top of the list should be the National Archives, which houses, as well as a copy of the Magna Carta and other special exhibitions, the Charters of Freedom: The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights.  I made it my first stop, only a week ago now, on my first day in my nation’s capitol.

There was no line as I walked up to the National Archives building, which is located across the street from the Smithsonian Museums and National Art Galleries on the north side of the National Mall. Luckily for me, as I was later told, this is generally the case in the winter months. The one exception will be for the upcoming Presidential Inauguration, when the city will be packed with visitors. Similarly to that time, in the summer months the line can be hundreds if not thousands of people deep. As I passed through security I wondered if it would be worth such a wait. Would I stand in line, particularly in the cold winter, to see a few faded scraps of parchment?

The simple answer: yes. The Charters of Freedom are the backbone of this country. They are the premise which allows the people who live here the freedoms they enjoy. And they are what I would go back to see if I only had time for one stop while in Washington, D.C., because they represent the idealistic good which seems to have been forgotten by some of the branches of government which they created.

National Archives brochure floor plan

National Archives brochure floor plan

Besides, they are sadly temporary. The ink is so faded on the documents, which are not allowed to be photographed, that they are next to impossible to read; only John Hancock’s name stands out clear as day on the Declaration of Independence. The other names, the writing, all require a fair amount of squinting to decipher. But it is worth the effort, worth the time, and worth the long lines, because it makes me proud to be who I am – an American citizen.

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3 Comments on “A Visit to the National Archives”

  1. agnesstramp January 17, 2013 at 4:33 am #

    Jason, great info! I am not a museum person, but this place seems to be interesting. Is it free? 😉

    • Jason's Travels January 17, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

      The National Archives is definitely free to the public, as it is – for all intents and purposes – owned by the American people. It’s quite a thing to see, too, although I skipped the various special exhibitions in favor of spending more time with the Charters of Freedom.


  1. My Guide to the Smithsonian Museums, Part Two | Jason's Travels - March 13, 2013

    […] are a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation – the original copy is rarely on display at the National Archives – a brief history of the Civil War, as well as one on Civil Rights. These displays most […]

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