Archivist Sleeps With Constitution

[This blog post was written by Sarah Downing, an archivist at the Western Regional Archives]

In front of the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

In front of the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Remember when you were a kid and you had a friend over to spend the night? In sleeping bags on the floor, you could stay up late and watch TV, play games, tell ghost stories or share secrets with your sleepover pal.

Last month, Lead Archivist Heather N. South at the Western Regional Archives, in Asheville, participated in a sleepover of a different kind when she traveled to the nation’s capital to spend the night in the rotunda of the National Archives building on Constitution Avenue. South chaperoned Riley Flynn to the event for 8 – 12 year olds sponsored by the National Archives Foundation.

Constructed during the 1930s as part of the three-structure Federal Triangle, the National Archives building houses the documentary heritage of the United States. Three documents known collectively as The Charters of Freedom – the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights – are on display in the spacious rotunda.

“The program was designed for kids, but I think the adults had just as much fun,” said South. “I consider the Charters of Freedom the ultimate in historical documents, so I jumped at the chance to dream of the Declaration of Independence while sleeping next to it!” All she needed was a 10 old willing to share in her archival adventure. “Riley was the perfect choice and she only rolled her eyes at my giddy joy twice.”

During the sleepover kids had the opportunity to learn about various eras of U.S. history through visits from explorers from the past and by seeing some of the treasures housed in the National Archives. The overnight stay ended with a pancake breakfast with Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero lending a hand in the kitchen!

According to South, “From scavenger hunts to historical interpretation and music, the experience was a spectacular way to learn and explore the archives, documents and our nation’s history.” Riley thoroughly enjoyed it all but Heather’s favorite quote from her traveling companion sums everything up, “the archivist’s pancakes were delicious!”