Starting June 28, the National Museum of American History (the one that has Dorothy’s ruby slippers, an incredible exhibit on America’s wars, and one of those awesome Stephen Colbert infinity portraits) will open the “Religion in Early America” exhibit, one of four new exhibits of the larger The Nation We Build Together experience on the newly renovated west wing of the second floor. (Regular visitors might have noticed about half the museum has been closed for a few years.)
As part of “Religion in Early America,” the Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has lent out some rarely seen materials from the Church’s past, including an original printing of the Book of Mormon.
Not to be outdone, however, this represents the first time the Church has released into another institution’s care one of the original manuscripts used for printing the Book of Mormon. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Church History archivist Brandon Metcalf said, when interviewed by the Mormon Newsroom,
In my opinion, the original manuscript is the most important record in possession of the Church … This is the first time we’ve ever loaned a page of the original manuscript because it is so rare. Many of the pages that did survive are illegible, and so it’s one of our most treasured collections.
Also on display will be printed notes from the Kirtland Safety Society. The notes even have Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon’s signatures. The Safety Society was Joseph Smith’s attempt to charter a bank in Kirtland in 1836, but the Ohio legislature was not willing to approve the application. The resulting unofficial bank—common in the era—was never on sound financial footing, and its collapse only added to the Kirtland church’s problems.
In addition, coins made of gold from California and minted in Salt Lake City will be part of the exhibition. The coins were used as currency in the Utah Territory. Surviving notes from the Kirtland Safety Society were also used well after the bank’s collapse.
The exhibit is not devoted solely to Mormonism, with other items on display, such as George Washington’s christening robe from 1732, a Jefferson Bible, a 1654 Torah scroll, and Native American wampum beads.
Enjoy an informative video below.