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Houston Museum of Natural Science hosts Magna Carta and King's Writ

Joel Bartsch, president of The Houston Museum of Natural Science and Annise Parker, Houston’s Mayor, recently welcomed the original edition of the Magna Carta and the only known copy of the King’s Writ, a letter from King John to the Sheriff of Gloucester dated June 20, 1215 A.D. to Houston.

The Magna Carta, written on parchment in medieval Latin
Valerie Sweeten

This exhibit, which includes historical British artifacts and interactive displays, will be on view for a limited time until August 17, 2014.

At the end of the exhibit, the items will be returned to Hereford Cathedral for display during a special celebration of Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary.

Parker explained how having this document is an honor for the city. “This is the most important document of the world and had tremendous impact. Even the Supreme Court has cited the Magna Carta. We’re proud of the museum. This is the first place that the document has traveled. We’ll take good care of it and cherish it. It’s an exciting time for the city of Houston and a wonderful day for HMNS.”

The Magna Carta, considered to be Great Britain's most valuable export to the world, is a model upon which the United States Constitution was based. The U.S. Supreme Court has traced dependence on the document in more than 100 decision in regard to due process, trial by jury, the importance of a speedy and unbiased trial, the protection against excessive bail or fines as well as cruel and unusual punishment.

Bartsch shared that anticipation has been building in Houston schools for the exhibit. “Kids and teachers are so excited. It’s going to be fantastic for schools. Hopefully, the enthusiasm will continue,” he said.

Canon Chris Pullin, Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral, who has overall management responsibility for the documents, explained why the Magna Carta is an “iconic milestone.”

“On both sides of the Atlantic we have come to see Magna Carta as an iconic milestone on the long road of human liberties and justice. Many world leaders have been inspired by what it stands for, and we hope that this loan strengthens the resolve of a new generation to safeguard the values of justice, peace, and liberty. We’re thrilled to bring it,” Pullin said.

Tickets for the exhibition are $25 adults, $20 children and $20 for seniors, ages 62 and over.

Members from the Magna Charta Houston Colony joined the kickoff event.

Ann Bevil, Susan Tillman and Dorothy Ferguson Green, Magna Charta members, all have ancestors connected to the Magna Carta. Having the actual Magna Carta at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is an honor for these Magna Charta members.

“We’re thrilled for Houston itself, Texas and the U.S. It’s so significant for our individual rights,” said Ann Bevil.

Susan Tillman said, “It’s an amazing opportunity for America to have this here especially Houston. I’m grateful for the British government allowing it to be shown here.”

Dorothy Ferguson Green, who has five ancestors including King John, shared in their enthusiasm. “I’m thrilled to death,” she said.

To purchase tickets or more information, go to www.hmns.org.