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Documenting a Nation

July 4, 2013 - July 13, 2014

When first written between 1775 and 1787, the Founding Documents of the United States of America were malleable—drafted by men in search of a constructive, collective identity. Williams College is fortunate to own a rare collection of these historic texts, all of which reveal their physical and philosophical origins as chronicles of the inception of a nation. The copy of the Constitution once belonged to George Mason, a friend of George Washington’s who annotated its pages with objections. Many of his grievances later became constitutional amendments.

The Founding Documents evidence this formative debate. Installed on a college campus, the texts further resonate as remnants of beginnings and a testament to dialogue. In this historic reading room adjacent to the College’s first library, their presence invokes a poetic return to the original use of the space—the study of significant texts.

The Founding Documents are on loan from the Chapin Library of Rare Books.