Emancipation Proclamation: A Word About Viewing Historic Documents

An original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation will be on display at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. As an original, historical document, the Proclamation is subject to strict guidelines to maintain its integrity as long as possible. A crucial part of said guidelines is a viewing schedule that allows the paper to “rest,” or go off display, and into storage for a period of time. During that time, facsimiles will be on display and will be clearly labeled as such.

There are several reasons we must remove the document from display and rest it. First and foremost, the Emancipation Proclamation is an aged document and is extremely vulnerable to light. For its protection, the document is framed with conservation glass to filter out harmful UV light, mounted on an acid-free mat, free from contact of the framing glass. However, any light projected on the document can cause damage over time despite these precautions. Although the display area is monitored and controlled as much as possible in gallery, heat and humidity has a deteriorating effect on documents from this era. The only way to prevent further damage is to store the document in a dark, temperature and humidity controlled environment on a rotating basis.

In the best interest of preserving the document under our care, we will comply with international standards of conservation and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause visitors.  Please refer any questions on this matter to Rich Cooper, Interim Director of Museum Experiences.