The people are voting. And the winner is . . . up to you!

Today’s blog post comes from Bruce Bustard, curator at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

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“Exercise your right to vote! This time, help shape the new exhibition space at the National Archives.” David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States

The National Archives invites you to choose an original document for our new exhibition.

America’s founding documents—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—are icons of liberty. But the ideals enshrined in those documents did not initially apply to all Americans. They were, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”

“Records of Rights,” a permanent exhibition in the new David M. Rubenstein Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, DC, allows visitors to explore how generations of Americans sought to fulfill this promise of freedom. “Records of Rights” showcases original and facsimile National Archives documents to illustrate how Americans throughout our history have debated and discussed issues such as citizenship, free speech, voting rights, and equal opportunity.

Now everyone can join this debate and help the curators select the first original landmark document to be featured for the November 8 opening. Make your mark at the “Records of Rights Vote,” an online poll where you can help choose the opening document to be displayed.

The documents under consideration are:

  • The 1868 joint resolution proposing the 14th Amendment to the states. The 14th amendment established the principle of “equal protection of the laws” and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” (RED 07536)
  • The 1971 certification of the 26th Amendment. The amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. (RED 01842)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990, which expanded Federal civil rights laws to include disabled Americans, and banned discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. (RED 21104)
  • Executive Order 9981, 1948. Signed by President Harry S. Truman, this executive order desegregated the U.S. Armed Forces. (RED 02922)
  • The Immigration Reform Act, 1965. These amendments to a 1952 immigration law ended the country-based immigration quotas which had favored immigrants from western and northern Europe. (RED 20877)

Curators and conservators considered many original documents and worked together to choose five that met the goals of the exhibition and would be able to be displayed for an extended time. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are already on permanent display in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building. And the Emancipation Proclamation will be displayed in the landmark documents case on February 15, 16, and 17 in 2014. Other documents, such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, are already scheduled for upcoming anniversaries.

Since “Records of Rights” is a permanent exhibition, there will be many opportunities to display other landmark documents. Feel free to suggest your favorite for future consideration!

Voting is open from September 9 to October 14, 2013.

In November, we’ll reveal the first document to be displayed in the landmark case.

Share your thoughts about why you voted for a document or why it is meaningful in the comments at the bottom of this page.

Vote now!

The “Records of Rights” exhibition and the David M. Rubenstein Gallery are made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives, through the support of David M. Rubenstein.

One thought on “The people are voting. And the winner is . . . up to you!

  1. Hi, I will like to cast my vote for the Executive Order 9981, 1948. Signed by President Harry S. Truman, because this was a major accomplishment for our country even though segregation was still around elsewhere. This was a start to show other countries that the United States was and still is the land of the free and brave for all.

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