Last Thursday, the Library of Congress opened a new exhibition, “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor,” which marks two special occasions: Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary and the return of the Lincoln Magna Carta to the Library after 75 years, where it was sent for safekeeping during World War II. Guest of honor for the festivities, which also included an evening program following the exhibition’s opening, was Britain’s Princess Anne.
During the opening ceremony, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the Temple Church Choir of London and the Howard University Singers performed, their sounds echoing majestically in the Library’s Great Hall.
“This exhibition really does underscore the importance of great cultural institutions like the Library of Congress and the British Library,” said the princess, who is Queen Elizabeth’s daughter, at the gala. “They have been entrusted with acquiring and preserving the intellectual heritage of our two nations as well as providing access to that heritage.
“This exhibition will very much enrich the public understanding of our heritage, not only by revisiting the major achievements of history but by offering new insights into those achievements in these changing times.”
The Lincoln Magna Carta is one of only four remaining original copies of the document to which King John affixed his seal at Runnymede in 1215. After a six-month public showing in the British Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the document traveled to Washington, D.C. On Nov. 28, 1939, the British Ambassador to the United States, in an official ceremony, handed Magna Carta over to Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish for safekeeping during World War II. The Library placed the document on exhibition until the U.S. entry into the war, when the Library sent Magna Carta to Fort Knox, Ky. The document returned to England in 1946.