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American Bar Association Set to Launch a Traveling Exhibition to Celebrate Magna Carta

 The following is a guest post by Elissa C. Lichtenstein, director of the Division for Public Services of the American Bar Association.

On August 8, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts, the American Bar Association (ABA) will unveil a unique exhibit celebrating Magna Carta.  MAGNA CARTA: ENDURING LEGACY 1215-2015 explores the history of the “Great Charter” and illuminates its influence on the constitutional underpinnings of the American legal system. The exhibit is one component of the ABA’s numerous initiatives celebrating the grant of Magna Carta nearly 800 years ago.

ABA Traveling ExhibitionTitle Treatment

Despite its rocky beginnings, when it granted freedom in 1215 from royal tyranny in feudal England, Magna Carta has enjoyed an immense and lasting impact. The original Magna Carta and its subsequent iterations inspired American revolutionaries, who incorporated many of its principles into the United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, and state constitutions. Great Charter concepts such as “due process of law” and limits on the power of the executive later joined American notions of “no taxation without representation,” and a view of the U.S. Constitution as the “supreme law of the land,” among others, in a litany of privileges and protections familiar to any student of U.S. law and government. Magna Carta has been enshrined in culture, from postage stamps to fictional works to ceremonial signing reenactments.

The ABA Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress has joined with the Library of Congress and its Law Library to bring this story to the public. Complementing the Library of Congress’s upcoming standing exhibition, Magna Carta: Muse & Mentor, the traveling exhibit features a series of free-standing banners showing spectacular images of Magna Carta and related precious manuscripts, books and other documents from all areas of the Library of Congress’s collections. These images, and the accompanying text, relate the story of Magna Carta and its role as a catalyst for the rule of law in a way that underscores the modern-day relevance of Magna Carta for viewers of all ages. Curated by the Law Library of Congress, the traveling exhibit also includes a take-away brochure as well as a companion video of David S. Mao, Law Librarian of Congress and Nathan Dorn, exhibit curator, explaining the significance of a number of the pictured materials.

ABA MagnaCarta Traveling Exhibition Banner: Due Process of Law

ABA Magna Carta Traveling Exhibition Banner: Due Process of Law

Raising awareness about Magna Carta and celebrating its legacy, the exhibit is slated to appear in law-related venues around the country over the next few years, including law schools, courthouses, bar centers, libraries, and state houses. The exhibit also will enjoy an international presence in June 2015 as it travels to England for display at the ABA London Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Celebration. In addition, once it launches, exhibit excerpts will be available through the Standing Committee’s web site.

The exhibit will travel to the following locations after its debut in Boston. As locations will continue to be added, check the listings on the web site for the most current information.

  • September 29-October 10, 2014, Indianapolis, Indiana at the Indiana Statehouse.  Host: Indiana State Bar
  • October 1-21, 2014, Ann Arbor, Michigan at the University of Michigan Law School Library.  Host: University of Michigan Law School
  • February 6-8, 2015, Houston, Texas at the ABA Midyear Meeting
  • March 2015, Atlanta, Georgia at the Georgia Bar Center.  Host: State Bar of Georgia
  • April 3-20, 2015, Salt Lake City, Utah. Host: Utah State Bar
  • April 29-May 2, 2015, Washington, DC at the ABA Section of International Law Spring Meeting
  • April 29-May 3, 2015, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section Meeting
  • June 11-14, 2015, London, England, at the ABA London Sessions commemorating Magna Carta
  • July 31-August 2, 2015, Chicago, Illinois at the ABA Annual Meeting
  • September 14-28, 2015, Brooklyn, NY at Brooklyn Law School.  Host: Brooklyn Law School
  • February 5-7, 2016, San Diego, California at the ABA Midyear Meeting

For information about hosting the exhibit, contact Elissa.

If you will be attending the ABA Annual Meeting in Boston, we invite you to visit ABA EXPO to view Magna Carta: Enduring Legacy 1215-2015 from August 8-10. As a bonus, David and Nathan will be on hand to meet visitors and discuss both the exhibit and the collections of the Law Library of Congress. Nathan also will present remarks during EXPO’s “pop-up speech” at 9:30 am on Saturday, August 9.

The ABA is undertaking myriad events to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, from a refurbishment ceremony at the ABA memorial at Runnymede in England to Law Day events, public education materials, and partnerships encouraging essay competitions and playwriting competitions. To keep up with developments, please visit the ABA Magna Carta Facebook page.

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