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At the request of the Librarian of Congress in 1939, an investigation was undertaken by the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to determine the best means of preserving the original copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. On March 16, 1940, NBS recommended that the documents be placed in specially-constructed enclosures that would be filled with chemically inert gas in place of air, and then sealed. Though the project was interrupted by World War II, in 1945 the work resumed. The enclosures were designed with detectors to make sure air could not leak into them and with filters to protect the documents against radiation. An external lighting system was created to provide adequate light to view the documents. By 1951 work on the enclosures was completed and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were then sealed in the new enclosures. On September 17, 1951, the enclosed documents were returned to the Library of Congress and in early 1952, were transferred from to the custody of the National Archives. At that time, the Bill of Rights (which was already in the custody of the National Archives) was similarly enclosed and sealed. On December 15, 1952, the three documents were placed on permanent display at the National Archives.  [From “NBS and the Constitution: An Office of Information Services Exhibit” by Karma A. Beal]

 

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