The BIG! Exhibit 75th Anniversary of The National Archives, Washington DC

Uploaded by usarchives on 06.04.2009


Good morning and welcome to the National Archives
The exhibit, as Adrienne mentioned is called "BIG!"
And it is a celebration of our 75th Anniversary
and it's really just a big grab bag of great
stuff about our nation's history. Each of the 26
items here has its own story to tell.
There's the Articles of Confederation
which was the nation's first Constitution
drafted during the Revolutionary war
literally in the heat of battle, and it carried the
former colonies all through that war and up until
1789, when the present Constitution went into effect.
We show it here as it has never been
seen before unrolled, all 13 1/2 feet of it.
An enormous map of Gettysburg
which was the site of the
civil war battle that remains to this day
one of the deadliest ever fought in North America
This map is so detailed, it shows the terrain, topography
roads, fences, houses
and what they were made of, and who lived in them.
It was used as a base for three maps, showing troop movements
for each of the three days of the battle.
And it helps get historians a clearer picture of what happened there.
The map is made up of twenty pieces and fully assembled
It is 13 feet by 13 feet.
The National Archives
preserves the personnel files for those who have served in the
Nation's military, and this exhibit has one of biggest of those files.
It belongs to General Douglas MacArthur, fills nine boxes, documenting
the career of one of the most highly decorated soldiers in the
history of our military.
But this exhibit has some lighter moments as well.
We have a document about President William Howard Taft
who was almost certainly
our biggest president. And we've got a replica of a bathtub
that is built to the exact dimensions of one that was built for him.
We've got a shoe belonging to a great powerhouse of an
American athlete, and its size will amaze you.
And finally, we've got the first printing of the
Declaration of Independence, made during the night of July 4th
A big, bold, brash statement embodying an idea so big
it engendered the birth of this nation, and has nourished the spirits
of people in this county
and all around the world for more than two centuries. It is one of the
National Archives greatest treasures.
We call this exhibit "BIG!"
but what's really big is the American spirit and the American story.
This exhibit has pieces of that story where we can see
the challenges that have been made
and the sacrifices that have been made.
The energy, the exuberance, and the humor, these are the things
that have sustained us through the centuries and will
continue to sustain us in the future.
And that's really what the exhibit is all about,
helping people to connect with that history
Before we go and actually see the exhibit, I'd like to introduce a guest
who is with us today, who has a special connection to
the National Archives.
One of the items on display
is a cast of a dinosaur track more than two hundred million years old
Dr. Paul Olsen is one of the Nation's foremost paleontologists
He's a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences
at Columbia University
and he was recently elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences
and we're very happy that he's here with us this morning to
talk to us about that dinosaur track.
Thank you very much

Thank you very much. What a pleasure it is to be here
today and to be invited to participate in this wonderful
exhibit. ... I was
15 years old when I first ...
came across these footprints with a friend of mine
Tony Lessa, who was also in high school with me.
And like so many people, I've managed to do pretty clean wipe
of my high school years from my memory.
So in fact when I got called by the National Archives
asked about this, about the footprint, I actually had no
memory of having given the footprint
a cast of the footprint to Richard Nixon
which is what actually happened.
The footprint was found in an abandoned quarry
that was used for fill, ... and
there were so many footprints, that we found
over a thousand of them, over the ..., over the years
we ... tried to have the park donated
have the land donated as a park, which it ultimately
was, the process
...after the park was formed
we received a Presidential Commendation
from Richard Nixon, and in return for that, we sent Nixon
a cast, which I made out of fiberglass
of the actual footprint
Now, I had completely forgotten about
this event, so when I was called by the ...
National Archives, I had to really look into my memory
to find the traces of what actually happened.
so this footprint, is
not very big, it's smaller than the giant...
shoe that you'll see on display
it's only about this big, and that's not
really very big for a dinosaur footprint
if you think about things, like
brontosaurus, which
has a foot about like this, or
tyrannosaurus rex which has a foot about the same size
that foot
that made that footprint, was one of
the first large dinosaurs
that existed after a mass extinction
that happened two hundred million years ago, when the
dinosaurs really took off
after their competitors were wiped out
so with a few million years, they
did attain the very, very
large size, that we're
familiar with, with most dinosaurs.
now, that footprint may not be
very large, but for a kid, who was
15 years old...
finding a fossil like that, and then
having communication with the President
and receiving a commendation
and sending it off, and ultimately having it be in the
National Archives, here. That was a really
big event.
Thank you. (Applause)

it's made out of
it's on, it's written on parchment.
It was hand
what we call engrossed, which means to
write in a clear, bold
handwriting. And on
six pages of parchment that are then
stitched together
And, the top
the beginning of the document up here and
13 and 1/2 feet away are the signatures
And please..
come on you can feel free to walk on it.
The maps on the floor here are actually
life size facsimiles
of the actual map.
But we do have an original portion here
on the wall
You can see the site
where President Lincoln later delivered
The Gettysburg Address
There was one civilian casualty
in the battle, and it, her name was
Jenny Wade, she was actually
killed by a Confederate bullet that came in
to a house, she was in the house
baking bread for the Union
army, and she was at the
bullet came in and killed her
and that house is ...
roughly ...
in this area here
..(tourist) and the address was in The Evergreen?
Well you can see that there was a cemetery
Evergreen Cemetery
and he did, President Lincoln delivered the
Address, somewhere in this
general vicinity right there.
This item
is amp of Southeast Asia, it is made in
1992, ...
It was made
for ... and presented
you can see in this
video back here
there is the map right there
... it's called a
cluster analysis map, and it's

there are 928 flags in here
each one of them represents the sighting
of an American serviceman
who was still missing, after the end
of the war. And the Senate committee
was looking into
that kind of solved this mystery
that tormented, you know the families
of people who served in the war and didn't
come back. And so each of these
pins represents a sighting
one of those men and they are coded by
the decade in which they were seen.
This is actually the radar
plot, that shows
you can see
it was taken from the Island of Oahu
The date is December 7th
1941, so what
it reflects is the
incoming, wave
of Japanese planes,
that are about to attack at Pearl Harbor.
And this was plotted by
two young privates who were on duty
at the radar station, and they had
a very quiet shift that morning, and
they were getting ready to leave
but they thought they would take a little bit of extra time
kinda get a little more practice, and
and all of sudden they saw this huge
blip on the radar screen, and
they called in where they were supposed to
call in, and the person on duty there
it was a quiet Sunday morning, so he also
did not have very much experience,
and he said, well don't worry, we're expecting
a flight of B-17s to be coming in
from San Francisco, and so
it was only later when they got back to their camp
and saw smoke rising
and people running all over the place
that they realized, that what they
had actually seen on the radar screen and what they
plotted here here, was this
first wave of Japanese planes
on their way to attack.
General Douglas MacArthur, who's career
went ...
almost half a century
and these are the actual boxes
his records fills all of these boxes
so, ... it's
thousands and thousands of pages
chronicling really quite an extraordinary
career. And we pulled out some
highlights from that. We have some
We have
photographs from various times
in his career, and...
he was one of the most highly decorated
people who ever served in the military
this is a list of some of the honors
that he received...
in 1951 he was famously
relieved of his duties by
President Truman, and this is the telegram that
conveys that information
and the finally we we have a casualty
report, reporting
his death in 1964
at the age of 84.
OK so
why the bathtub?
This bathtub's actually
a replica, but what was authentic here
is this original document
it relates to William Howard Taft
who is shown here, almost life size
so he was certainly one of our biggest
presidents, and in 1908
he was president elect and he was
planning a trip to the Panama canal zone
to inspect the construction
site and...
the ship's
thought that he needed to outfit
the ship with certain special things
for this President. And he ordered
for example a bedstead
of extra length, a superior
spring mattress, extra long
and a bathtub of extra width
And so this is
a replica, that we had made
built to the exact dimensions
of a bathtub that was later made
for President Taft and brought in to
the White House. So
it was described as having pond-like

What's interesting about this is that you'll notice
there are only two names
at the bottom of the document. There's John Hancock
who was president of Congress
and Charles Thompson, who at the time was serving as
Secretary. And...
the reason for that is that is considered too
dangerous at that time
for the names of the signers, to
actually become public.
This is just a reminder that in
signing the document, it was really act of treason.
punishable by death
And so the... names of the
other signers, weren't really made public
until several months later when
the war, started going
a little bit better for the American side.
The members of Congress agreed
to the text of...
the Declaration Of Independence on July 4th
and it actually wasn't signed
until... early August
That's when the signing began.
Because, what happened, the
Declaration Of Independence that's in the
Rotunda, is the official
engrossed, we call it an engrossed
copy. And that was, had to
be prepared, and it wasn't ready for signatures
until early August.
That is actually one of the
most widely...
held misconceptions
but, ... what's considered
what's significant about July 4th, is that is the day
that Congress agreed to
the Declaration Of Independence.
This a ship that was originally
a German ship, luxury
liner. And during World War 1, it was
seized by the United States, and
it was converted into a troop transport.
it served as a troop transport through the years
of World War 1. Then at the end of the
War, it was again converted
back into a luxury liner. And so
this drawing, articulates
that conversion, exactly it's kind of a
proposal as to how that..
change would be made.
These are actually design
drawings for... the
Elephant house
in the National Zoo here in Washington. And
in the Elephant House
there is a relief
design, and these animals
are prehistoric animals
Maybe Dr Olsen could tell us..
a little bit about them. But...
they're all...
shown, these are drawings
in which they were shown
later in these..
..relief sculptures.
And if you go to the
Elephant House today, you can, you can see them.
Just a few words about this globe
It was from 1969
it was a gift to the National Archives

it posed huge storage problems
so this exhibit really gave
gave us an opportunity to restore
it to it's...
condition, which is now beautiful
it's illuminated from inside, and it
moves on it's axis.