Thomas Jefferson took a couple of sleep-deprived days to craft the Declaration of Independence, spelling out a new nation’s rationale for breaking with the British crown. If only preserving the calfskin parchment on which he and others pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honors were that simple.
This Independence Day marks the first July 4th celebration since the federal government installed new encasements last September for the document, signed 228 years ago. It’s on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., along with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
It took more than two years for engineers and scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and NASA to complete their work on new gold-plated, titanium-framed encasements for the documents. The parchments inside the cases rest on cellulose paper, set beneath laminated tempered glass, in a bath of inert Argon gas. An optical system in the encasement base detects infiltrations of water or oxygen.
The encasements replace 1951 models and are designed to last a century. Which makes us wonder what archives will look like in 2104.