New Constitution Museum...

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  1. Shizamus

    Shizamus New Member

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    Museum Honoring Constitution Set to Open




    By DAVID B. CARUSO
    Associated Press Writer

    June 29, 2003, 2:51 PM EDT

    PHILADELPHIA -- A new national museum honoring the Constitution will open July 4, and its curators say the timing couldn't be better for a monument to the national charter.

    Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is scheduled to join a list of politicians and celebrities at the dedication of the $185 million National Constitution Center, whose glass-walled galleries will offer sweeping views of the Constitution's historic birthplace, Independence Hall, three blocks to the south.

    The museum on Independence Mall was conceived more than a decade ago and has been under construction for three years, but opens at a time of heightened patriotism following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and concern that civil liberties might be compromised by the clampdown on terror.

    "That is the challenge that the framers faced, the challenge of balancing liberty with security, and it is a challenge that has echoed down through the ages," said Stephen Frank, the center's director of research. "It is an opportunity for us -- the fact that these kinds of questions have risen -- and they are issues we confront."

    The museum embraces 216 years of constitutional controversy.

    One of Florida's infamous butterfly ballots from the 2000 presidential election will be on display. So will tickets to President Andrew Johnson's 1868 impeachment trial, and a lock pick used during the 1972 Watergate burglary.

    When the museum picked 100 Americans to be featured in an exhibit called the National Family Tree, it bypassed presidents and politicians in favor of many who fell into the history lexicon by less traditional means. For example, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt was included for his court battles over free speech and pornography.

    There is a collection of petitions sent to Congress demanding the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage and rights for American Indians.

    Several exhibits will allow guests to write their opinions on sticky notes and slap them on the wall; the cafe will have terminals where visitors can e-mail their congressmen.

    "It promotes the idea that the Constitution is not so much a document that contains answers to society's problems that mysteriously reveal themselves to us, as much as it is a document that sets up a framework for Americans to solve problems themselves," said University of Pennsylvania Law School professor Kim Roosevelt.

    Visitors also may walk among life-size statues of the 39 men who signed the Constitution. The statues rest on the floor, not on pedestals, and giants like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton seem surprisingly short and thin -- almost delicate. Only Washington, at 6-foot-2, towers over the common man.

    "We want you to see them as real people making choices," said the center's president, Joseph Torsella.

    The prize artifact of the National Constitution Center, established by Congress in 1988, is a copy of the Constitution printed Sept. 19, 1787, two days after its signing -- one of only 20 surviving copies from the first public printing
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