This video presents the fascinating behind-the-scenes creation of the Magna Carta encasement. This encasement will display the 715-year-old document at the National Archives. The 1297 Magna Carta being encased is one of only four remaining 1297 originals. Magna Carta is said to have influenced early American settlers and been a fundamental inspiration for the Constitution of the United States.
The Magna Carta encasement was machined at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) out of two solid blocks of aluminum and sits on a unique cart designed to support the document on exhibit. The encasement is air tight and is filled with humidified argon, an inert gas that, unlike oxygen, will not degrade the document. Elaborate instruments continuously monitor the conditions within the encasement for humidity presence and evidence of leaks.
National Archives conservators devoted weeks to the conservation treatment of Magna Carta, the first phase of a major project leading its re-encasement and public display. The document — written on parchment in 1297 with iron gall ink — is one of 17 surviving versions of Magna Carta in the world today, the only one in North America and the only Magna Carta in private hands.
The document is on loan to the National Archives from David M. Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group in Washington, DC. In the course of treatment ultra-violet photography revealed previously illegible writing in the text of the document that had been obliterated by water damage at some unknown time in the past. Senior conservators Terry Boone and Morgan Zinsmeister removed old repairs, filled the areas of loss with conservation paper and humidified and flattened the document.