Spotlight: Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on Display
at the National Archives
View this fragile but enduring piece of history
What You’ll Find
The original Emancipation Proclamation, with President Abraham Lincoln’s signature, on display at the National Archives in Washington D.C., during Presidents Day weekend (February 15, 16 and 17, 2014) from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day.
Due to its fragility (made worse by exposure to light) and in order to preserve the document for future generations, the National Archives displays the Emancipation Proclamation for a limited time each year.
You’ll also find other important exhibits at the National Archives. See the original founding documents—the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights; visit the new Records of Rights exhibit or explore the Public Vaults to find some of the most interesting documents, photos and films from our nation’s history.
The National Archives is located on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 9th Streets and accessible by Metro subway at the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter station on the Yellow and Green Lines. Visit the National Archives website for directions and maps.
Since Washington is one of the top three tourism destinations in the U.S., you’ll find plenty of lodging options at Destination D.C. For convenience, look for lodging near a Metro station.
Make Sure You
Reserve a timed entry for your visit to the National Archives!
Whether you prefer to see the museum on your own or join the one-hour docent-led guided tour (9:45 daily, Monday through Friday), an advance reservation costs just $1.50 per person and allows you to avoid the exterior portion of the general public line (which can be long during the busiest times).
The National Archives offers reservations as a convenient option; however visitors may join the general public line whenever the museum is open.
Visit President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers Home, where Lincoln spent his summers and drafted parts of the Emancipation Proclamation. The cottage is a bit off the tourist path—about 15 minutes from the National Mall via taxi (at the intersection of Rock Creek Church Road NW and Upshur Street NW). Find directions and maps or purchase an advance ticket (recommended) through the Lincoln Cottage website.
Try a meal at the Willard Intercontinental, a historic landmark hotel where Lincoln stayed (and dined) before moving into the Whitehouse in 1861. There’s a copy of his hotel bill on display in the hotel’s history gallery.
Visit the National Archives’ website for more information on other exhibits and free public programs.
Along the road to slavery’s final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation assumes a place among the great documents of human freedom. At the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
In July 1862, President Lincoln read his "preliminary proclamation" to his Cabinet, but decided to wait for a Union military victory to issue it. On September 22, 1862, following the victory at Antietam, he signed the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, formally alerting the Confederacy of his intention to free all persons held as slaves within the rebellious states—if the rebels did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863. One hundred days later, with the Confederacy still in full rebellion, President Abraham Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation.