Last night we opened the David M. Rubenstein Gallery, the home of our new Records of Rights permanent exhibit.
The new David M. Rubenstein Gallery, hosting the “Records of Rights” permanent exhibit, which discusses the rights of women, immigrants, and African Americans.
David Rubenstein is a passionate advocate for the National Archives and for educating all Americans about our shared history. His many gifts to us and to other cultural institutions have done much to promote public awareness of our nation’s history. And we are deeply grateful to him for his generous gift to the Foundation for the National Archives that made possible this new gallery, which showcases the long struggle to secure and exercise individual rights for all Americans.
Ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Rubenstein Gallery. From left to right: President of the Foundation’s Board of Directors A’Lelia Bundles, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero, David M. Rubenstein, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. (Photo by Margot Schulman from the Foundation for the National Archives)
David is a firm believer in the power of public-private partnerships and I am thankful for the support from our Senate and House Appropriations Committees in matching his gift for this project.
The centerpiece of “Records of Rights” is the 1297 Magna Carta, which David purchased five years ago because he believed the one copy of this famous charter in the United States should not leave this country.
David M. Rubenstein speaks to the crowd in front of the 1297 Magna Carta
The principles of individual rights set down in Magna Carta and the belief that no one is above the law inspired the founders of the American republic. They embedded those rights into the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and subsequent generations have developed, debated, and enlarged the concept of citizens’ rights, as we see in the documents displayed throughout this exhibition.
The three major sections of “Records of Rights” highlight the struggles of Americans to define and realize their civil rights through the stories of African Americans, women, and immigrants. Through documents, photographs, drawings, and films from National Archives holdings, we explore how our forerunners sought to fulfill the promise of freedom set out in our founding documents.
As House Leader Nancy Pelosi said last night, the gallery evokes themes of “roots’ and “wings”—documenting the past, while imagining the future.
At the center of the gallery is what we call the interactive table. The large touch-screen table offers a selection of over 300 Archives documents about Americans struggling to define, attain, and protect their rights related to a wide variety of issues such as citizenship, free speech, voting rights, and equal opportunity.
17-foot-long interactive table in our new exhibit “Records of Rights” in the newly built David F. Rubenstein Gallery.
Visitors can explore the documents, highlight individual records, react to their stories, and share them with others. They can even continue their exploration online through the website recordsofrights.org.
With the Rubenstein Gallery and our new exhibition, visitors to the National Archives Museum will have access to even more of our remarkable holdings. An important part of improving that access is the elegant new Orientation Plaza, where we’re gathered now. It offers visitors a welcoming place where they can get their bearings and plan their visits to the rest of the museum.
In the center of the floor is a bronze medallion of an eagle holding a Latin inscription—Littera Scripta Manet. The words, which are the National Archives motto, loosely translate to “The Written Word Endures.” Here at the National Archives, we are dedicated to ensuring that the written word—as well as film, audio, and digital messages—endure for all ages.
For the past several years, staff throughout the National Archives have been working to create this exhibit. Archivists, conservators, photographers, curators, designers, editors, registrars, and more have all contributed their hard work and expertise to building “Records of Rights.” I would especially like to recognize the curators, Bruce Bustard, Jen Johnson, Michael Hussey, Alice Kamps, Corinne Porter, and Darlene McClurkin.
David M. Rubenstein (front center) takes a moment to pose with our hard-working exhibits staff who brought the gallery to life.
And special thanks to Christina Rudy Smith, Director of the National Archives Museum. After more than 30 years dedicated to the National Archives, Chris is retiring in just a week and a half. She has ably guided the National Archives Museum for the last several years and was a registrar, curator, and branch chief before that. Thank you, Chris, for guiding our exhibits program to increase public awareness of the treasures of the National Archives and for your dedication to unlocking the stories held in our records.
For many years, we have received support from the Foundation for the National Archives as we pursue our mission of preserving and making available the records of our Federal government. Through its financial and creative support, the Foundation has given us the means that allow National Archives staff to serve the public and increase awareness of our in many ways. And the creation of this new gallery space is the latest example of this remarkable partnership.