Constitution exhibit opens at fort

STEUBENVILLE — “Celebrate the Constitution,” the annual exhibit sponsored by Historic Fort Steuben and the Fort Steuben Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, opened Saturday at the Fort Steuben Visitor Center, Third and Market streets.

The exhibit highlights the signers, the details and the history of America’s founding document, which is commemorated every year on Sept. 17, Constitution Day. Included in the exhibit is the “Bill of Rights and You,” created by the National Archives Traveling Exhibits Service.

“With every election and every political issue, we can see the importance of the Constitution and of knowing our rights as citizens,” explained Judy Bratten, executive director of Historic Fort Steuben and the Visitor Center. “Although most of us have covered the subject in middle or high school, we often don’t realize its significance until we are adults, especially as we become more involved in the political process. Understanding what the founders discussed, debated and argued over and deciding how this new nation would govern itself is important for appreciating the rights and privileges we have today.”

The exhibit provides information about the Constitution, some of the people influential in its writing and on the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

Bratten noted that the founders realized that as the country grew, the government would need to adapt and so designed a way to do it.

“Before our Constitution’s amending process was detailed in Article V, governments generally changed through war or violence, not votes,” she explained. “As Lincoln said, the founders truly believed that the government was to be of the people, by the people and for the people. Proposing an amendment is easy, but two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states must approve the change before it is added to the Constitution. That is why, out of more than 11,000 attempts to amend the Constitution, only 27 have been successful.”

The exhibit also offers visitors the opportunity to sign a replica of the Constitution and watch a movie depicting the proceedings of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Everyone who “signs the Constitution” will receive a free pocket Constitution. A Bill of Rights quiz/contest will be available and four winning entries will receive a signed copy of Bentley Boyd’s graphic paperback “Constitution Construction.”

Constitution Day was the brainchild of Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia who always carried a copy of the Constitution with him and was emphatic about making Constitution Day events a requirement for organizations that receive federal funds.

The exhibit is open to the public until Sept. 22. The Visitor Center at Historic Fort Steuben is at 120 S. Third St. and open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

For information, call the Visitor Center at (740) 283-1787.