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“Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor” Exhibition Opening

After three years of preparation and anticipation, the Library’s exhibition, “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor” is open. The exhibition runs through January 19, 2014. The 1215 Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta anchors the exhibition that also includes precious supporting artifacts and documents from the Library’s collections.  The exhibit traces to Magna Carta a number of the most basic principles of individual liberty in the U.S. Constitution – consent of the governed, the right to a trial by jury, the right to due process of law, freedom from unlawful imprisonment and limited government under the law.

To inaugurate the opening of the exhibition, a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place this morning.  HRH The Princess Royal of the United Kingdom, Princess Anne, cut the ribbon in the gallery and spoke briefly during the opening ceremony in the Great Hall of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building.  Sir Peter Westmacott, the British Ambassador to the United States; British dignitaries; and Library of Congress officials participated in the morning events.

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, and James Mao, the Law Librarian of Congress and others participate in the opening ceremony for Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor at the Library of Congress, Thursday, November 6, 2014. Photo by John Harrington

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, and David Mao, the Law Librarian of Congress and others participate in the opening ceremony for Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor at the Library of Congress, Thursday, November 6, 2014. Photo by John Harrington

The exhibition celebrates the upcoming 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and the 75th anniversary of Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta’s first visit to the Library of Congress.  After a six-month public display in the British Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Library received the document in an official ceremony on November 28, 1939.  The British Ambassador to the United States presented Magna Carta to then Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish for safekeeping during World War II.  Once the United States entered the war, Magna Carta was sent to Fort Knox, Ky.  The document returned safely to Lincoln Cathedral in England in 1946.

Lord Lothian (right), British ambassador to the United States, transfers the Lincoln Magna Carta to Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish (left) for safekeeping during World War II, 1939. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.hec

Lord Lothian (right), British ambassador to the United States, transfers the Lincoln Magna Carta to Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish (left) for safekeeping during World War II, 1939. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. //www.loc.gov/pictures/item/hec2009014422/

Please stop by the Library if you are in the Washington, D.C. area this fall or early winter.  The exhibition is free and open to the public Monday through Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., in the South Gallery on the second floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.  If you cannot visit the exhibition in-person, an online version will be available soon at //www.loc.gov/exhibits/magna-carta-muse-and-mentor/?loclr=bloglaw.

A number of upcoming public events related to the exhibition are planned:

Gallery Talks

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014 Nathan Dorn, exhibition curator, will discuss highlights of selected items from the exhibition. The program will take place in the South Gallery, Second floor, Thomas Jefferson Building from 12:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m.

On Wednesday, November 19, 2014, Susan Rayburn, a specialist in the Library of Congress Publishing Office, will discuss the 1215 Lincoln Magna Carta’s first visit to the Library in 1939. This program, “Magna Carta in America: From World’s Fair to World War,” will take place in the South Gallery, Second floor, Thomas Jefferson Building from 12:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Symposium

On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, the Law Library will host the symposium, “Conversations on the Enduring Legacy of the Great Charter,” beginning at 2 p.m. in Coolidge Auditorium of the Thomas Jefferson Building. Speakers from academia, the legal and judicial fields, and the media will discuss the links between the principles of Magna Carta and issues in society today. The sessions will focus on the impact of Magna Carta on the United States and how this seminal legal document has helped develop contemporary legal and political thought. More details about sessions and speakers will be announced via In Custdia Legis soon.

Magna Carta Lecture Series

On Wednesday, January 14, 2015, Ruth M. Karras, chair of the History Department at the University of Minnesota, will present the lecture “Magna Carta: Women in Medieval Europe in 1215,” at 1 p.m. in the Mumford Room. Professor Karras will discuss the social interactions between men and women in medieval Europe, with a special emphasis on how marriage and the status of women changed as English statutory law began to take shape in the 13th century following the adoption of Magna Carta.

On Tuesday, April 7, 2015, the Law Library welcomes Nicholas Vincent, Professor of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia, to give the lecture “Magna Carta: New Discoveries.” The program will take place at 1 p.m. in Room LJ-119  in the Thomas Jefferson Building.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @LawLibCongress, using #1215MCLC, for updates on the exhibition and surrounding events.

Update: Event video added below.

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