HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett has announced the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and The New York Public Library have entered a historic 100-year partnership allowing an original copy of the Bill of Rights to be seen by the public for the first time in decades.
The document, currently at The New York Public Library (NYPL), will go on public display in Pennsylvania for the first time at the National Constitution Center (NCC) in Philadelphia beginning in the fall of 2014. It will stay at the National Constitution Center until 2017.
As part of the historic agreement, the center will display the document to the general public for three years starting in the fall of 2014.
In 1789, each of the 13 states and the federal government received a handwritten copy of the Bill of Rights. Of those copies, 12 are known to have survived.
The document has been stored at The NYPL since 1896 after acquiring it through a donation. It has been the subject of scholarly debate as to whether it is Pennsylvania’s original copy of the Bill of Rights.
New York’s copy is believed to have been destroyed in a fire and Pennsylvania’s went missing in the 1800’s. Now, through this historic agreement, both Pennsylvania and New York will share alternate “custody” of the document allowing it to be seen by more people than ever before.
“This is a win for Pennsylvania, New York and the citizens of the United States,” Corbett said. “For the first time in decades, this historic document will be seen by ‘We the People,’ the people who were granted these inalienable rights and privileges that we are still guided by today.”
The NYPL hasn’t displayed the document in decades, but has shown it over the years to researchers. It has never been displayed it for an extended period of time for preservations reasons.
“This landmark agreement makes public one of the most important documents in the nation’s history, an over 200-year-old, original copy of the Bill of Rights,” Library President Tony Marx said. “The document has been expertly preserved at the library for more than a century, leaving it in prime condition and ready to inspire and educate the public now and in the future.”
The 100-year agreement between Pennsylvania and The NYPL requires the document be housed in a qualified institution within the commonwealth. The National Constitution Center meets that requirement.
“This is a milestone moment for the National Constitution Center as we celebrate our 10th anniversary and look toward the next decade as the museum of ‘We the People,'” NCC President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Rosen said.
“We are thrilled to be able to offer visitors the opportunity to experience one of America’s founding documents up close. In addition to exploring the historic value of this priceless document, our exhibition will provide a national forum for discussion, education and constitutional debate about contemporary issues related to the Bill of Rights.”
According to the agreement, the document will be displayed alternately by the library and Pennsylvania equally for the first six years. After that, the library – which is responsible for care of the document – will have it 60 percent of the time that it can be displayed.
For more information, visit www.pa.gov.
Editor’s Note: The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments of the Constitution. A transcript of the document is listed below:
Original Ten Amendments: The Bill of Rights
Passed by Congress September 25, 1789.
Ratified December 15, 1791.
Amendment I – Freedoms, Petitions, Assembly
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Amendment II – Right to bear arms
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Amendment III – Quartering of soldiers
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Amendment IV – Search and arrest
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment V – Rights in criminal cases
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment VI – Right to a fair trial
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.
Amendment VII – Rights in civil cases
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment VIII – Bail, fines, punishment
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment IX –Rights retained by the People
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X – States’ rights
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
About the National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center is a hands-on museum, national town hall, and civic education headquarters celebrating the United States Constitution and the story of “We the People.” Located on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia, the Center illuminates constitutional ideals and inspires active citizenship through a state-of-the-art museum experience, including hundreds of interactive exhibits, films and rare artifacts; must-see feature exhibitions; the internationally acclaimed, 360-degree theatrical production Freedom Rising; and the iconic Signers’ Hall, where visitors can sign the Constitution alongside 42 life-size, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers. As America’s town hall, the Center engages diverse, distinguished leaders of government, public policy, journalism and scholarship in timely public discussions and debates. The Center also houses the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach, the national hub for constitutional education, which offers cutting-edge civic learning resources both onsite and online. Join us at the museum of “We the People” as we celebrate our 10-year anniversary in 2013. For more information, call 215.409.6700 or visit constitutioncenter.org.
About The New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 91 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves more than 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support.