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Where to See the Declaration of Independence

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There are a lot of prints of this historical document out there, but there is only one original copy. Where is the Declaration of Independence?

We’ll answer that question and many more about visiting the attraction in this post.


Where is the Original Declaration of Independence?

Fear not, Nicolas Cage did not actually steal the Declaration of Independence as depicted in the film National Treasure.

The actual original document still presides at the National Archives in Washington DC.

The entrance can be found on Constitution Avenue between 7th Street NW and 9th Street NW.

This building is surrounded by the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the US Navy Memorial Plaza.

Where is the National Archives Building

The Declaration of Independence is on the upper floor of the National Archives in the Rotunda, which also houses the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

It is entirely free to visit the National Archives, but there are a few things you may want to keep in mind before you make the trip.

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Visit the Declaration of Independence 

Although there is no admission price for the National Archives, it can get pretty busy between the months of March and June or on holiday weekends. On busy days, it can take up to an hour just to get into the building!

If you want to avoid the wait, you can get timed tickets which will allow you to skip most of the line.

These tickets come with a $1.50 processing fee, but that’s not much to ask to avoid a long wait.

The Declaration of Independence in the National Archives. Source: Library of Congress (loc.gov).

You can reserve tickets for up to 15 people. Admission is available from 10:30 am - 3:30 pm with a timed ticket.

Alternatively, you can also take a guided tour at 9:45 am from Monday - Friday. These tours are offered for free, but you must make a reservation in advance.

Reserve your tickets.


Historical Preservation and Protection

When it comes to security, it is important to keep in mind that photography is prohibited inside the National Archives. If you want to avoid any trouble getting inside, come with as few items as possible.

As for how they maintain the integrity of these historical documents, their location within a rotunda is actually more than just ornamental.

The Rotunda in the National Archives is kept cold and dark, the reason being that light can cause the ink to fade and it can destroy parchment/paper, especially from a fragile document that is hundreds of years old.

Likewise, one of the reasons photography is not allowed is because the light from camera flashes could damage these documents. 

We didn’t always understand this, and for a long time, the Declaration of Independence was kept near a window in the Patent Office Building. 

Sunlight from the window would creep in each day, and over many years this caused the ink on this document to fade, which is why it’s much more difficult to read today than it was in the past.

Today, the Declaration of Independence, as with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, is kept in housing designed to prevent any future degradation.

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About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: May 9th, 2022
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