A rare public display of original copies of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights will take place Wednesday at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.
The state will put on display its copy of the Bill of Rights that it recovered in 2003 in an undercover federal sting operation. It will be displayed next to a rare first printing of the U.S. Constitution.
“Having the two of them together is really kind of neat,” said Michele Walker, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
The copy of the Constitution that will be on display is one of just 14 known copies of the official printing produced for the delegates to the Constitutional Convention and for the Continental Congress, according to the museum.
It is one of only two copies of the first printing of the Constitution that remain in private hands. Walker said the N.C. Museum of History Foundation has access to the document and offered it to the state for a public viewing.
Sotheby’s plans to auction one of the privately held copies later this month. Sotheby’s estimates it could sell for between $20 million and $30 million, McClatchy News reported.
Bill of Rights
Since they had access to one historic document, Walker said they decided to also bring out the state’s copy of the Bill of Rights. It’s typically held out of public view in a vault in the State Archives in Raleigh.
The Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, and all of the original 13 states, including North Carolina, had copies. It was stolen at the close of the Civil War by a Union soldier who later sold it to an Indiana businessman.
The state tried for more than a century to recover its copy but refused to pay for a stolen document.
It was recovered in 2003 when FBI agents seized it from an antiques dealer who thought he was talking to a philanthropist interested in buying the document for a Philadelphia museum, McClatchy News previously reported.
How to view the founding documents
The original copies of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights will be on display Wednesday at the N.C. Museum of History at 5 E. Edenton St. in Raleigh. The one-day public exhibition is free to the public and runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Flash photography will not be allowed due to the age of the 230+ year-old documents. But video and non-flash photos will be allowed.