MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Some of the most valuable documents in the State of Alabama's possession are being sent to Massachusetts for a year-long conservation project, the Alabama Department of Archives and History announced Thursday.
Two of Alabama's six constitutions, as well as the 1861 ordinance of secession that declared Alabama's separation from the Union just before the start of the Civil War, have been carefully boxed and shipped. The other four constitutions will follow sometime in April.
The irreplaceable artifacts will be taken to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, MA, considered a leading conservation center that specializes exclusively in working with paper and film-based collections, ADAH officials said.
NEDCC has worked on multiple projects since its founding in 1973 including treatment of the oldest copy of the Mayflower Compact, as well as personal letters written by Paul Revere.
ADAH officials say each of the documents is in "generally good condition" but added an assessment of their condition in July found they needed to be cleaned and stabilized, to repair damage from earlier conservation efforts, and to get them ready for display.
While the cost of the assessment was paid for by a private donor, the $136,530 NEDCC preservation contract will come from the department's state appropriations.
Once conservation work is completed in 2019, the items will return to Alabama for exhibition at the ADAH in Montgomery, as well as other areas of the state as Alabama celebrates its 200th-anniversary of statehood.
Alabama became the nation's 22nd state on Dec. 14, 1819. Since that time, it has drafted multiple state constitutions that ADAH says "document the rights of Alabama's citizens as reflect prevailing attitudes about the role of government at the time of their respective adoptions."
The constitutions were drafted in 1819, 1861, 1865, 1868, 1875, and the latest in 1901. The current version holds the distinction of being the longest constitution in the world, more than 12 times longer than the average state constitution and 44 times longer than the U.S. Constitution.