The newest addition to Independence Park is the world’s only museum devoted to the U.S. Constitution—which is way more fun than it sounds. It opens with a live performance-in-the-round that uses compelling acting and multimedia to explain the document's history. This is light-years beyond the well-meaning but staid old park service films we all know and fall asleep to.
After the one-man show, you continue on to the interactive exhibits that let you take the Presidential Oath of Office, don a Supreme Court robe, see how well you can answer questions from the citizenship text, stand next to a Declaration signer in a room filled with life-sized bronzes, and examine a Palm Beach County punch-card voting machine from the 2000 election. (They were right. It was a confusing ballot.)
There are plenty of touch-screens and audio and video displays tracing not just the discourse of the Continental Congress but the Constitutional debates and growing pains that have continued throughout our history—Federalism versus states' rights, slavery and the Civil War, robber barons and social welfare movements, world wars, McCarthyism, civil rights, and more. One fun touch: a series of videos in which two actors—blessedly in modern dress and mode of speech—debate the issues that faced our Founding Fathers as if they were on a PBS-style point/counterpoint show.
Hidden amid the tight-packed placards, screens, speakers, and computers are pristine historical artifacts, from one of the original printed copies of the Constitution (flanked by a Revolutionary War drum and flintlock musket) to Harry Truman's Key West uniform (a Panama hat and Hawaiian shirt), campaign paraphernalia to a poll tax receipt, the bone white robe of a KKK member to the lace-fringed black robe worn by Sandra Day O'Connor, a 1910 factory time clock and a Bible-thick 1902 Sears Catalog. You can also see one of the nine tape recorders Nixon used to document his own dirty tricks next to the gavel used to preside over the Watergate hearings and a signed copy of Ford's official pardon.
My favorite is "Election Central," where mock-up voting booths give you a random match-up of two presidents from the past 70 years, then present you with anonymous quotes from each of them related to 10 important policy matters—education, taxation, health care, foreign policy, the environment, and so on. At each step, you pick which quote or policy position you most agree with, and at the end it tells you whether you ended up siding more with (in my case, Lyndon Johnson or Ronald Reagan). Only then do you get to cast your vote for one of the two.