A popular movie scene from the movie National Treasure has inspired many students, and chaperones, to ask questions about security at the National Archives and to inquire if there is truly invisible ink on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Visiting the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom is a must for student groups studying history and civics on a school trip Washington, D.C.

And to answer the question, they have security covered.

(Watch out video guide to The National Archives here.)

Named for the influential documents found within, the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom display the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in secure, moisture-controlled, bulletproof cases.

When your group arrives at the Archives, you will go through a security screening before entering the Rotunda. Security allows a set number of guests into the Rotunda at one time after giving brief instructions that include no photography. This rule is taken very seriously for the protection of the documents within.

Rotunda National Archives.jpg

There is no line system within the Rotunda, so visitors may walk directly to the display cases. Groups typically gather in the anteroom which adjoins the chamber before exiting the building.

If time allows, go and explore beyond the Rotunda. The Archives is rich in documentary artifacts from the Federal Records Administration which contains every existing treaty, Act of Congress, a presidential proclamation, and move onward from the nation’s founding. It’s the ultimate paper trail.

Also explore the curated exhibits in the National Archives Museum and the David Rubinstein Gallery, which houses an original copy of the Magna Carta and a fabulous interactive exhibit that chronicles the struggle to enlarge America’s definition of citizenship.

The gift shop is among the best in the city, so it’s a great place for quality teaching materials and souvenirs.

The SCHOOL TRIP SPOTLIGHT is written by NationsClassroom’s expert, licensed guides and features exciting attractions from the most popular student travel destinations on the historic East Coast.

For more information please Browse Our Tours.

Originally published November 2017, updated July 2021