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The Library of Congress will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the first issue of Magna Carta with a 10-week exhibition from Thursday, November 6, 2014 through Monday, January 19, 2015. The 1215 Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta will be the centerpiece of the exhibition. In addition, there will be approximately 75 items from the Law Library of Congress and from various other divisions of the Library, which will tell the story of 800 years of Magna Carta’s influence on the history of political liberty.
The Library’s exhibition will demonstrate how interpretations of Magna Carta through the centuries led to the constitutional guarantees of individual liberty brought forth by the Founding Fathers of the United States. It will describe how a number of the most basic principles of the U.S. Constitution—consent of the governed, the right to a trial by jury, the right to due process of law, freedom from unlawful imprisonment and limited government under the law—can be traced to Magna Carta.
The Library’s exhibition also will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta’s first visit to the Library of Congress. After a six-month exhibit in the British Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the document traveled to Washington, D.C. In an official ceremony on November 28, 1939, Lord Lothian, ambassador to the United States handed Magna Carta over to Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish for safekeeping during World War II. The Library placed the document on exhibition until the U.S. entry into the war, when the Library sent Magna Carta to Fort Knox, Kentucky. The document returned to England in 1946.
Law Librarian of Congress David S. Mao said, "Through this exhibition we will celebrate the core tradition of the rule of law. While aiming to detail the enduring impact of Magna Carta over 800 years, our exhibit will illuminate its influence on our legal traditions and political thought while examining the unfolding story of the rule of law throughout the world. We look forward to taking a leading role in the American commemoration of the 800th anniversary of this legal treasure."
The exhibition curator is Nathan Dorn, rare book curator in the Law Library of Congress, and the exhibition directors are Cheryl Ann Regan and Martha Hopkins from the Library’s Interpretive Programs Office.
Additionally, the Library of Congress curated and provided materials for a facsimile traveling exhibition on Magna Carta for the American Bar Association (ABA). The exhibition opened at the 2014 ABA Annual Meeting in Boston and will travel across the United States for the next few years. In June 2015, the ABA Magna Carta Facsimile Traveling Exhibit will journey to England. For more information on ABA’s Magna Carta commemoration, visit www.facebook.com/abamagnacarta.