July 2, 2012 — If you're staying put this July 4 but want to do something patriotic, consider a virtual visit to the University of Virginia Library's Declaration of Independence exhibit.
The story behind the declaration, from its first printing to popular 19th-century facsimiles, is illuminated through the Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection – the most comprehensive collection of letters, documents and early printings relating to the declaration and its signers. The collection traces the writing, printing and dissemination of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and subsequently, its remaking in the years after the Revolution into the American icon it is today. Documents and letters from the signers bring to life the stories of the individuals who took great risks at that pivotal moment in American history. One, of course, is U.Va.'s founder, Thomas Jefferson.
In June 1776, Jefferson, 33 years old and already a well-known and accomplished writer, faced an enormous task: to draft a declaration of independence for the American colonies. Drawing on contemporary documents, Jefferson, with help from John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, drafted the seminal document of American history – what he would later call "an expression of the American mind."
For more on how the document came to be, visit the exhibit here.
The exhibit can be viewed in person at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. The exhibit will be closed July 4.