Valley residents are flocking to see a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, creating lines to view history at the state Capitol that normally can only be found in Washington, D.C.
About 4,000 people waited in outdoor lines for up to 90 minutes Saturday and Sunday for their chance to view the 227-year-old document at the Arizona Capitol Museum. Attendance was twice what sponsors had expected, and some visitors had to be turned away at the end of each day.
"The people of Phoenix are more enthusiastic than they thought," said Lisa Beyer, the museum collections manager. "It was a terrible occurrence, and we hope they come back by next weekend."
The lines were much shorter Monday, and people waited less than 15 minutes before they were directed to the museum’s third floor. Two East Valley friends said they were pleasantly surprised by the whole experience.
"I thought there would be more people here," said Rosemarry Oliva of Sun Lakes. "We expected a long wait. That’s why we’re here today."
"We basically walked right in," added Sally Hanson of Chandler.
Hanson and Oliva mingled with schoolchildren from north Phoenix as they moved through the Declaration of Independence Road Trip. The centerpiece of the traveling display is the copy of the Declaration of Independence, called a "Dunlap Broadside," named after the printer who produced hundreds of typewritten copies of the document that launched the American Revolution in 1776.
Today, only 25 of those copies are known to exist. The version now protected by state Department of Public Safety officers at the Capitol is on a 3 1 /2-year tour of the United States to spark interest in the country’s early days and to encourage children to vote and to participate in the political process.
The museum has established waiting areas outside because the overall visit starts in the old Senate chambers with a 10-minute video hosted by actress Reese Witherspoon, a descendant of one of the original signers. About 100 people can fit into the room at a time, Beyer said.
The document is next door, protected under glass set in a 6-foot-long metal case in the shape of a paper scroll.
The final stop is in the old House of Representatives chambers, where visitors can try a touch-screen voting booth and watch a video of a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence by several Hollywood actors.
The display will be open through Sunday.
Declaration of Independence
Where: Arizona Capitol Museum, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Information: (602) 542-4675