“Congress Creates the Bill of Rights” from National Archives

The NARA app, Congress Creates the Bill of Rights, showing a Constitutional amendment screen on an iPad

Whether it’s the 800-year-old legacy of the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution or the more recent Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, all of these documents are powerful symbols of citizens’ rights and freedom. They articulate the most important rights granted to the citizens of a country, and each has its own history.

The Center for Legislative Archives, part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), houses the official records of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. It marked the 225th anniversary of Congress’s historic achievement in proposing a set of amendments that would become the Bill of Rights by launching Congress Creates the Bill of Rights. It comprises three elements: a mobile app for tablets, an e-book and online resources for teachers and students. Each provides a distinct way of exploring how the First Congress proposed amendments to the Constitution in 1789.

The mobile app is an interactive learning tool for tablets that lets the user experience the proposals, debates, and revisions that shaped the Bill of Rights in the First Congress.

Classified as an educational app, it is available for download on iPads in the App Store and on Android devices in Google Play. The app and the content have a slightly heavy footprint at 313 MB, and it takes a few minutes to download and install.

Its menu-based organization presents an historic overview, a one-stop detailed study of the evolving language of each proposed amendment as it was shaped in the House and Senate, a close-up look at essential documents, a time-lapse display of the creation of the First Amendment, and opportunities for participation and reflection designed for individual or collaborative exploration.

Each section of the app views the Bill of Rights from a different perspective. The ‘Get the Background’ section lets you explore the reason for the Bill of Rights in a slideshow that recites the story with amazing images from the Archives. The ‘Go Inside the First Congress’ section allows you to read the biographies of leaders and discover the remarkable Senate markup of the 17 House-passed amendments. The ‘Amendments in Process’ section allows you to trace each proposed amendment until it was added to the Constitution. The ‘Join the Debate’ section allows you to reflect on the debates, gives you a chance to vote and understand how it’s viewed in history as an amendment.

The NARA app, Congress Creates the Bill of Rights, showing a Time to Vote on amendments screen on an iPad

There is also PDF version of the app content. The PDF is divided into four sections: Get the Background, Go Inside the First Congress, Amendments in Process and Join the Debate.

The e-book focuses on James Madison’s leadership role in creating the Bill of Rights, as Madison and the leaders of rival political factions worked in the House and Senate to formulate amendments to change the recently ratified Constitution, effectively completing the U.S. Constitution. The e-book is available in iTunes and the iBookstore for your iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

The lesson plans and activities for teachers and students to use are all available online as well.You can download this and other government apps through the USA.gov Federal Mobile Apps Directory. Do you have a federal app that is not listed on the Directory? Take part in the Great Federal Mobile Product Hunt.

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