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The franchise:  America's elections

NBC News brings Democracy Plaza to life in the heart of New York City, with interactive exhibits and historic artifacts.

As America ponders a pivotal election in 2004, a 2-1/2 week celebration of American democracy and citizenship will blossom in the public spaces of NBC News headquarters at Rockefeller Center. Conceived by NBC and sponsored by Bank of America, “Democracy Plaza” opened to the public on Wednesday, October 20, two weeks before Election Day, and will run through Friday, November 5.

Besides inspiring exhibits, historic artifacts and an interactive forum where the public can explore issues of democracy and even register to vote, Democracy Plaza will hum with activity on Election Night, when it will serve as the venue for the live Election Night coverage of NBC News, Telemundo and MSNBC.

“We are thrilled to be participating in this project,” said Randy Falco, president of NBC Universal Television Networks Group, which is headquartered at Rockefeller Center. “Democracy Plaza will give hundreds of thousands of visitors — and millions more watching on television — a unique opportunity to learn about our democratic system, to share that heritage with their children, and to celebrate the values of citizenship and democracy that all Americans hold dear.”

The public exhibition includes historical artifacts, photo and video displays, and themed elements that speak to America’s unique tradition of electoral politics.

Among the exhibits are an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, printed the evening of July 4, 1776.

There is also an extensive exhibit of photos, mementos and historical artifacts from five noteworthy presidential elections beginning with George Washington (curated by American History Workshop founder and President, Richard Rabinowitz).

Other features include:

  • A Teddy Roosevelt "whistle-stop" era replica railroad car;
  • Examples of many voting-booth technologies now used in the United States;
  • A full-scale replica of the Oval Office;
  • A full-scale replica of an Air Force One fuselage (Boeing 707 version);
  • A Debate Theater focusing on the Presidential elections since 1960, drawing from the broadcast archives of NBC Universal and featuring great moments from the televised Presidential debates, election night coverage and notable excerpts from inaugural addresses;
  • Interactive exhibits promoting voter registration and other takeaway value for citizens;
  • Items from the historical archives of Bank of America documenting more than 200 years of the nation's economic history;
  • A “Democracy for Kids” pavilion produced by Scholastic, with activities and displays geared to children K-12.

Large video screens and a 60-foot media tower feature programming themed to Democracy Plaza, including "We the People," a video exploration of the preamble to the Constitution and a series of brief "Democracy Did It" vignettes saluting the accomplishments of individual citizens.