A facade celebrating press freedom moves to Philadelphia

The facade of a now-closed Washington museum has long attracted attention along the street it faces. And soon the Newseum’s supersized marble engraving of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution will have a new home in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center, which brings the U.S. Constitution to life through interactive exhibits.

The First Amendment enshrines Americans’ freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Workers have almost finished dismantling the 45-metric-ton tablet in sections in preparation for transporting it to Philadelphia. The center will display the 45 words of the First Amendment from an atrium overlooking Independence Hall, the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

“It’s incredibly meaningful to bring the text of the First Amendment back to Philadelphia, where the Constitution was drafted,” said Jeffrey Rosen, the center’s president. “The First Amendment tablet inspired people around the world in Washington, D.C., when it was at the Newseum, and when the Newseum was looking for a new home, [Philadelphia] seemed like the perfect match.”

Facade of the former Newseum building in Washington, with sidewalk blocked off and cars passing by (© Linda D. Epstein)
The Newseum in 2007, before it opened in Washington. The First Amendment tablet is on the left portion of the facade. (© Linda D. Epstein)

The tablet, cut from Tennessee pink marble, was engraved and erected in 2007 as the Newseum’s facade, just a few city blocks from the U.S. Capitol and the White House. (The Newseum closed in 2019.)

Officials hope to unveil the tablet in Philadelphia by Constitution Day, on September 17.