NOVA: Charters of Freedom

Article excerpt

Located online at http://www.pbs. org/wgbh/nova/charters/.

Source: NOVA/PBS, WGBH Educational Foundation, 125 Western Avenue, Boston, MA 02134; Phone: 617/492-2777, ext. 5400; Internet: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/.

Access Fee: None.

Audience: Educators teaching grades 6 through high school.

Format: Web site.

Minimum System Requirements: Computer with Internet access and Internet browser. Flash plug-in required for interactive portions.

Description: The NOVA: Charters of Freedom Web site is a companion to the PBS program, Saving the National Treasures. These two multimedia resources examine efforts to preserve the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation/Access: The Web site loaded quickly. The home page is well organized; it is easy to find the section you are interested in using. The interactive examination of the Declaration of Independence requires a Flash Player, which is available from the site. Each page in every section offers a hotlink back to the home page. Installation/Access Rating: A

Content/Features: NOVA: Charters of Freedom provides an in-depth look at conservation efforts to restore and protect the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

The Web page features three major segments: Inquiry and Interview, Interactive and Overview, and Resources.

The Inquiry and Interview section includes an interesting science/ social studies connection in Fading Away, a feature that explores the effect of light on cultural works. The segment includes an in-depth explanation of how and why light damages documents.

This section also answers that nagging question recently brought to light in the movie National Treasure-just what is on the back of the Declaration of Independence? This choice bit of information is found in a thought-provoking interview with conservators. The material includes a discussion about the line between restoration and cosmetic tampering.

The Interactive and Overview segment presents a quick-loading interactive copy of the Declaration of Independence that allows students to examine all of the damage on the document. As the mouse rolls over each section, a damaged piece and a complete explanation of the damage appears in a larger pop-up window. This inspection provides an opportunity to see a mysterious handprint on the document; this was quite a surprise.

The Case Closed section allows students to examine up close and in detail the $5-million case designed to preserve important national documents. These are very high-tech frames.

The Resources section is probably the most useful segment for teachers. This area features a description of NOVA's Saving the National Treasures television segment, as well as the entire transcript of the program. A teacher's guide offers pre- and post-viewing questions for students, as well as some hands-on activities that give a better understanding of the effect of light on materials. The guide also provides lessons on how the documents were made, including information on the paper and ink of the time.

The Web links contained in the Resources segment are outstanding. The list begins with the National Archives' Charters of Freedom site, which offers an interactive look at the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Here, students can even sign the Declaration themselves online. The site also offers nice, downloadable, high-resolution copies of the documents.

The second listed link, The Star Spangled Banner, explores conservation efforts at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History for the American flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the "Star Spangled Banner." Students can hear a version of the" National Anthem" at this site.

An additional link offers access to the Smithsonian's online exhibits and archival resources. …