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National Constitution Center
National Constitution Center Front.jpg
Exterior of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Established 17 September 2000
Location Independence Mall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Type History museum
Visitors 817,000 (2011)
Public transit access SEPTA.svg 5th Street:      Market–Frankford Line Bus transport SEPTA.svg SEPTA bus: 38, 44, 48
Bus transport Philly PHLASH

The National Constitution Center is a nonprofit institution devoted to the Constitution of the United States. On Independence Mall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the center is an interactive museum and a national town hall for constitutional dialogue, hosting government leaders, journalists, scholars, and celebrities for public discussions (including presidential debates). The center offers civic learning resources onsite and online. It does not house the original Constitution, which is stored at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.

The groundbreaking ceremony (attended by President Bill Clinton) was held on September 17, 2000, the 213th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. The center opened on July 4, 2003, joining other historic sites and attractions in what has been called "America's most historic square mile" because of its proximity to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

Background

National Constitution Center-exterior
"We the People" inscription at the National Constitution Center

The center was created by the Constitution Heritage Act. Approved on September 16, 1988 and signed by President Ronald Reagan, the act defined the National Constitution Center as "within or in close proximity to the Independence National Historical Park. The Center shall disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis in order to increase the awareness and understanding of the Constitution among the American people." The center is at 525 Arch Street, an address chosen because May 25 (5/25) was the date that the Constitutional Convention began in Philadelphia.

The architectural firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners designed the center, and Leslie E. Robertson Associates were the structural engineers for the project. Witold Rybczynski of The New York Times wrote, "Quiet but assertive, respectful of its surroundings, considerate of its public, this building is destined to take its place among the nation's leading public monuments."

Ralph Appelbaum Associates designed the center's visitor experience and exhibition hall. The public space is 160,000 square feet (15,000 m2), including galleries. The center has 75,785 square feet (7,040.7 m2) of exhibit space. The center is made of American products, including 85,000 square feet (7,900 m2) of Indiana limestone, 2.6 million pounds of steel, and a half-million cubic feet of concrete. Construction of the center was overseen by project manager Hill International.

Leadership

The National Constitution Center board of trustees appointed law professor, legal commentator, and former visiting scholar Jeffrey Rosen to serve as president and chief executive officer of the center; Rosen began his tenure in June 2013. The chairmen of the board of the Center have been:

John C. Bogle 1999–2007
George H. W. Bush 2007–2009
Bill Clinton 2009–2012
Jeb Bush 2013–2017
Joe Biden 2017–2019
Neil Gorsuch 2019–

Civic education

Originally through its Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach, the center offers onsite and online civic-education programs and a study center which develops and distributes teaching tools, lesson plans and resources.

Public engagement

The center has hosted several debates, including a 2008 Democratic presidential primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama a town hall meeting with Senator John McCain, and a 2006 Pennsylvania Senatorial debate between Republican incumbent Rick Santorum and Democratic challenger Bob Casey.

Liberty Medal

In 2006 the center became home to the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, an annual award established in 1988 to recognize "men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe."

Gallery

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