PITTSFIELD -- The Magna Carta -- one of the most important documents in England's history -- will be on display at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown in 2014.

State Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord, the house chairman of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, made the announcement on Monday when the panel held a public hearing at the Berkshire Museum.

The Magna Carta, which means "great charter" in Latin, is approaching its 800th anniversary. It was signed in June 1215 between English barons and King John, and contains a series of promises that require the king to govern his subjects under the customs of feudal law. It would serve as the inspiration for many documents establishing liberty, including the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Atkins said the Magna Carta will be on display at the Massachusetts Museum of Fine Arts in Boston during the summer of 2014, then brought to the Clark.

"I want you to all start preparing for this now," Atkins said. "It will be a huge boost in tourism."

Kathleen Morse, the Clark's director of collections and exhibitions, said she believed the Magna Carta would be on display in Williamstown from late August through the middle of October.

"We think it's quite extraordinary," Morse said. "These documents rarely travel."

Morse said the Massachusetts Cultural Council approached the Clark about exhibiting the document.


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"I think the idea was that the Clark was a very good geographic counterpart to Boston to make this an opportunity to make it available to as many people in Massachusetts and the surrounding area as possible," she said.

According to Morse, only four copies of the Magna Carta still exist. She said the only other time the Magna Carta has traveled to the U.S. was in 2007 for the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown, Va.

WEB EXTRAS | MORE ABOUT THE MAGNA CARTA …

  • The National Archives & Records Administration calls the Magna Carta an "inspiration for Americans" …

"During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty's defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land."

 

To reach Tony Dobrowolski: tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or (413) 496-6224. On Twitter: @TonyDobrow.