The National Constitution Center was built to honor the U.S. Constitution, the freedom it represents, and its heritage. It’s the first and only institution that Congress has delegated to educate the public about the Constitution and the legacy it leaves to every American. The Center brings the Constitution to life through hands-on exhibits, multi-media shows and public forums.
Steeped in History
The Center is located at 525 Arch Street, on the north side of Independence Mall. Its location within the Independence National Historical Park was established by President Ronald Reagan when he signed the Constitution Heritage Act of 1988. The area is steeped in history and often referred to as America’s most historic square mile because of its close proximity to important sites like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
The intention, groundbreaking and opening of the building was all carefully planned to match significant moments in the history of the United States.
- The idea of a National Constitution Center was proposed in 1987, at the time of the bicentennial celebration of the U.S. Constitution.
- Ground was officially broken on Sept. 17, 2000, exactly 213 years from the day the U.S. Constitution was signed.
- The Center’s doors first opened on July 4, 2003.
- The address chosen is historically significant. The numbers in 525 Arch Street represent May 25, the date of the Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia in 1787.
The Construction Years
While the National Constitution Center was under construction from 2000 to 2003, more than one million artifacts were found. Archaeologists called it the richest find of colonial artifacts ever unearthed in an urban setting.
Once the site was cleared of historical treasures, construction was accomplished with a variety of American products. The building took over two million pounds of steel, 85,000 square feet of Indiana limestone and one-half million cubic feet of concrete to complete.
The pubic space consists of 160,000 square feet of galleries, meeting and rental facilities for corporate and social gatherings. Amenities for the visitor include a 225-seat, glass-enclosed restaurant that overlooks Independence Mall and a museum store. Some 75,785 square feet of exhibit space houses permanent, featured and traveling exhibits.
Bringing the Constitution to Life
Congress wanted the National Constitution Center to be three things, a museum, a headquarters for civic education and to serve as America’s Town Hall. As a museum, the Center is home to a variety of interactive exhibits and live shows. As a civic center, it offers classes, workshops, lectures and educational resources for children. As America’s Town Hall, it serves as a national town hall, and hosts government leaders, scholars and journalists for public discussions. As a platform for debates, it has hosted many significant events and personalities, including the Democratic presidential primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama held in 2008.
The Story of We the People – This is a hands-on exhibit that reviews America’s history, showing how relevant the U.S. Constitution is today. It consists of three concentric rings of interactive exhibits. The shape of the exhibit is significant in that it represents the influence the Constitution has had throughout the country’s history.
Signers’ Hall – A popular place for photos, visitors can walk among 42 life-size bronze statues of the nation’s Founding Fathers and accept an invitation to sign a copy of the Constitution.
Freedom Rising – This multimedia production features state of the art lighting and a 360 degree projector to produce a live, 17 minute show depicting the American journey in search of freedom through historic milestones like the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement.