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by Jennifer Baldino Bonett
The National Constitution Center opened in America’s birthplace on July 4, with Penn Law as an important partner in this first-ever museum dedicated to the document of “We the People.”
And what could be a more perfect union for the development of this “Smithsonian of the Constitution” than Penn Law and the new Constitution Center? With its superior expertise in Constitutional law, the Law School is a natural contributor to the NCC, which is destined to join the Liberty Bell as a major tourist attraction, historical focal point and educational force. The Center is located in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.
Noting the Law School’s contributions to the project, Dean Michael A. Fitts said, “The Center is original in its presentation and in its ability to reach someone new to the Constitution as well as appeal to the knowledgeable scholar. I am very proud of the significant roles that Penn Law faculty and students have played in this extraordinary endeavor. They have helped to create a center that will be known far and wide as the Smithsonian of the Constitution.”
Steve Frank, NCC’s director of research, sees great benefit in the synergy between Penn and the NCC. “I think that the two institutions . . . can do together a great many things that they can’t do separately. Penn is a deep well of intellectual resources and the NCC is a unique institution for reaching out to a broad American public. In that sense, [the relationship] provides a bridge between the academy and the citizenry.”
With the axiom “enter as a visitor, leave as a citizen,” the NCC invites families, students, and scholars to increase their awareness and understanding of the Constitution, its history, and its relevance in their daily lives through interactive and multimedia exhibits like “The American Experience,” which includes a history of the Constitution, and “Domestic Tranquility,” a discussion area for scholars and visitors.
Visitors read headlines as they enter different areas of the museum. Each area contains additional explanatory text, interactive displays, and period objects. At the exhibit on the Reconstruction Amendments, for instance, people can read about the events and hear the debates that took place on the sensitive issues that followed the Civil War.