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    There are certainly a lot of places to visit in Washington D.C. that have a massive importance historically and legally. But, not in every single one of those sites can you find or witness something that was done or carried out by the Founding Fathers of the nation, over 200 years ago. The National Archives is one of the places in which you feel most directly linked to the history of the United States of America. There is where you can find the true origins of the country, exactly as they were when they were originally written, albeit somewhat faded. The handwriting of America’s most influential men is still visible through the hard glass covering the documents that forged one of today’s strongest superpowers. Only 1 to 3% of all documents ever created in the course of business conducted by the Federal Government of the United States of America are deemed important enough, be it historically or legally, to be kept forever by the United States. The Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence are the only three documents that are kept in permanent exhibition inside the building.

            The National Archives were established in 1934. Before that time, important documents were kept by private houses or companies. In that year, the U.S. Government decided that there were hundreds of important documents being lost, or that weren’t being given enough protection, that needed a proper place to be stored in, and so they formed an institution that would do just that. Over the course of time, the National Archives has grown to have 37 facilities nationwide. In the year 1937, 1,360,000 cubic feet of records were transported to the NA building in D.C. This created an enormous outburst amongst Congress, which had decided to examine and inspect the importance and relevance of treaties, laws, bills, executive orders, and other sorts of documents emitted by the nation to see if they were to be included in the National Archives. The edifice in D.C. has 757,000 square feet of storage space in total.

            The national Archives building was constructed out of gray granite, and light gray marble. Granite, being the harder substance, was used for the pillars. The construction has 72 Corinthian columns, each of which measures 53 feet in height, and weighs 95 tons. The building has a total length of 330 feet, and a width of 213 feet. In other words, it occupies two full city blocks, extending from 7th street to 9th street, and from Pennsylvania Avenue to Constitution Avenue. This low-rise building has a maximum height of 166 feet. There are four sculptures near the entrances of the building. One sculpture represents the past, another one the future, a third one embodies heritage, and the fourth one portrays guardianship. There are two bronze doors that cover the entrance to the building. Each door weighs 6.5 tons, and measures 38 feet and seven inches. They are also each ten feet wide, and have an impressive thickness of 11 inches.

            There are four inscriptions around each of the four sides of the building. I decided to include them because they’re so accurate in describing the function and importance of this building. They give it as much might and importance as it deserves. On the South side of the building, you can read the words, “The ties that bind the lives of our people in one indissoluble union are perpetuated in the archives of our government and to their custody this building is dedicated.” On the East side is inscribed, “This building holds in trust the records of our national life, and symbolizes our faith in the permanency of our national institutions.” On the West side of the building, is the phrase, “The glory and romance of our history are here preserved in the chronicles of those who conceived and builded the structure of our nation.” And beneath the pediments on both sides of the building, you can read the powerful name this institution receives from it’s government; “Archives of the United States of America.”

            As I said before, few other places in Washington make you feel so inexorably drawn into the most colossally and monumentally arresting events in the history of the U.S. The words written in the three prime documents of the nation have lost not an ounce of their tremendous significance and authority, no matter how faded the words themselves might be in the aging parchment. I really loved going to this place, and having seen three of the last remaining primary documents that witnessed the birth of what is now one of the world’s grandest countries. When I had the documents in front of me, I felt a strong sense of reaffirmation. The history books weren’t lying. These events really took place hundreds of years ago, and in front of me stood the proof that some of the most brilliant men that ever lived  gathered round and forged a country out of sheer will, to the price of all the blood that was spilled during the American Revolution, during the fight for independence.

 

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