The National Archives Building is arguably the most compelling repository of American history in the United States. It houses the original documents upon which the country’s founding fathers outlined a bold vision for liberty and democracy. These documents, the Charters of Freedom, include the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The Archives building, designed by John Russell Pope in 1935, resides on one of the most popular tourist thoroughfares in the world, the National Mall on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. In the 1990s, the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) determined that significant renovations to the Main Archives Building were necessary to accommodate swelling crowds of annual visitors and protect the vital documents housed within the building’s walls.
Heery was retained to serve as construction manager for building renovations to the National Archives and serve as design consultant for new encasements to protect the Charters of Freedom. Heery began working with NARA to formulate a phased renovation plan for the 900,000 SF National Archives Building. In addition to renovations of the main Rotunda and development of new encasements for the Charters of Freedom, the renovations called for greatly expanded exhibit space, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant accessibility, a 288-seat (plus handicapped seating) auditorium, and additional office space for archivists and other staff.
Heery successfully protected the sheer volume (more than six billion pieces of paper) of irreplaceable historical records that reside in the building. Those documents include the Charters of Freedom, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote, the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, and the Civil Rights Act. Heery also accomplished complex, occupied renovation of the building in downtown Washington, D.C., keeping the building open for staff, researchers, and one million annual visitors. Even more sensitive than the National Archives Main Building Renovation was Heery’s assignment to assemble and lead a design team of conservation, parchment, and exhibit experts to develop new, more advanced encasements for the Charters of Freedom to slow the erosion of the historical documents.