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George W. Bush Presidential Museum to Open New Exhibit of Rare Documents

'Freedom Matters' features rare versions of the Magna Carta, Constitution and the Declaration of Independence

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The George W. Bush Presidential Museum is set to open an exclusive exhibit of rare documents that show the evolution of democracy. It's called "Freedom Matters."

"It underscores the history of our pursuit of freedom here in the United States," George W. Bush Institute Executive Director David Kramer said. "It's incredibly important that we understand the origins, that we understand how far we have come, and also recognize that we still have a ways to go."

The exhibit has a rare version of the Magna Carta.

"It's a nice pocket-sized version," George W. Bush Institute Director of Freedom and Democracy Chris Walsh said. "The thousands of years of human history had seen others, the strong, imposing their will on the weak, on the vulnerable. This was a big shift in that idea."

As visitors walk through the exhibit, they'll see copies of books by philosophers Jean-Jaque Rousseau and John Locke, whose ideas preceded the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The exhibit has rare versions of all of them.

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"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Walsh said reading a passage from an 1831 copy of the Declaration of Independence on display. "Those ideas are what set forth our nation here today...I think what this exhibit reminds us of, it's not a linear path."

The exhibit shows the struggles for freedoms.

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"This tiny document is a pocket version of the Emancipation Proclamation," Walsh said. "This is how the word was being carried out to enslaved people."

There are artifacts from the Women's Suffrage Movement, to Civil Rights, to Marriage Equality.

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"We need to come to places like this and have conversations with our friends and our family, even when they're uncomfortable, in a very civil way," Walsh said.

"We obviously live in a democracy here in the United States, but there are millions of people in the world, in fact, several billion, who don't live in free societies," Kramer said. "It's important to remember that we do have the liberty that many people desire around the world and we shouldn't take it for granted."

Freedom Matters was made possible, in part, through private collectors, Harlan Crow Library and David Rubenstein, loaning the documents.

The exhibit opens at the George W. Bush Presidential Museum on March 2 and runs through Dec. 31.

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