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A new permanent exhibit at the National Archives called "Public Vaults" is designed to help visitors step back into history and go behind the scenes to explore the documents, photographs, maps, films, recordings and other objects in the Archives' collection.

Nearly a million people visit the Archives each year to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Behind the walls where these charters are displayed are billions of records that trace American history in smaller yet significant ways.

Visitors to the new exhibit will be able to sample some of the items from behind this wall as they listen in on the deliberations of presidents dealing with crises, examine now-declassified top-secret documents and even read a teenager's plea to keep Elvis Presley out of the Army in a "Dear Uncle Sam" collection of letters citizens wrote to the government.

The building is located on Constitution Avenue, between Seventh and Ninth Streets NW, open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.

Associated Press