The National Archives exhibition building is reopening tomorrow after an extensive two-year renovation. At the center of the renovation are new display cases -- made with Starphire glass -- for the three documents, collectively called "The Charters of Freedom." Two additional displays ringing the rotunda contain a series of "American Originals," documents related to The Charters of Freedom. (Installation of Starphire glass in the American Originals display has not yet been completed.)
"The exhibit looks great. You can hardly tell that the glass is even there," said Marvin Shenkler, restoration project manager for the National Archives. "In prior years, Americans looked at these documents through glass that gave them a green appearance. Thanks to the new glass and lighting, people from across the nation -- and from across the world -- can get a much clearer view of The Charters of Freedom."
The new display replaces one installed in 1952, in which deteriorated glass was developing small cracks and becoming opaque. The archives feared that eventual contact with the aging glass could cause abrasion to the parchment (animal skin) on which the historic documents were written, Shenkler said. Starphire glass in the new display cases will never touch the documents, he added.
"We are extremely proud that Starphire glass was selected for use in the National Archives project," said Mark J. Orcutt, PPG's vice president of flat glass, adding that 1,500 square feet of the glass was donated by PPG for use in the project.
While conventional glass has a green tinge, "thanks to the innovative work of PPG researchers and advanced manufacturing techniques, Starphire glass is the clearest float glass in the world, transmitting absolutely true color," Orcutt said.
For use at the National Archives, Starphire glass (3/8-inch thick) was laminated to provide high-security characteristics, and it was covered with an anti-reflective coating -- by Denglass Technologies, LLC -- to maximize the amount of light to illuminate the documents, which are considered the foundation of American democracy. Denglass is a global leader in anti-reflective coating technologies for the picture framing and specialty glass industries.