Diebold secures National Archive project
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — America’s founding documents will be safe from possible explosions, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires or terrorist attacks in vaults being developed by Diebold, government and company officials say.
Diebold, headquartered in Green and with operations in Canton, is doing the work as part of a $100 million-plus renovation of the National Archives.
The company, which makes safes, vaults and automated teller machines, won a $1.78 million contract to supply the vaults that will be used to protect the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — or the “charters of freedom,” as they are called at the archives.
As a donation to the U.S. government, Diebold is picking up $1 million of the cost of the project, which falls just under $3 million.
“The company feels these are very precious and important documents to the history of the United States and wants to help in any way they can to safeguard them,” said Jim Pellegrene, senior manager for physical security products at the 142-year-old company.
Three years ago, Diebold developed a vault and display case for the Hope diamond at the Smithsonian Institution.
While the charters of freedom project is not the company’s largest-ever project, Pellegrene said that “from a historical standpoint, it certainly ranks right up there as the most important.”
The vaults are part of a larger project at the archives that includes making the rotunda where the charters are displayed accessible to the disabled, expanding exhibit space and restoring two murals that depict the presentation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The exhibit area is set to close July 5 and reopen when work is complete in 2003.
The planned exhibit will show all four pages of the Constitution, rather than just the two currently on view.
Diebold will supply three room-sized steel-reinforced concrete vaults for the documents. The largest, for the Constitution, will be about 12 feet wide, 10 feet deep and 8 feet high. The two smaller vaults will be 8 feet square.
Diebold plans to start production in April or May and install the vaults in mid- to late 2002. Diebold has tapped Lindsay Concrete Products Co. in Lawrence Township to make the vault panels.
The two companies developed a super-strong concrete in the early 1980s, Pellegrene said. Compared to ordinary driveway concrete, which can withstand 5,000 pounds of pressure per square inch before it cracks, this concrete can handle more than 25,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, according to the company.
The archive’s “biggest concern is terrorism more than anything else,”
Pellegrene said. “They’re worried about somebody trying to destroy (the documents) by some means, like getting into the building with a knapsack of dynamite.”
Pellegrene was unsure if the vaults would withstand a nuclear attack.
“Nobody really knows without actually testing,” he said.
The Diebold contract includes mechanical retraction systems to remove the documents from their display cases nightly or in an emergency and put them in the vaults. The devices can secure the documents within seconds and with a minimum of vibration, which could knock ink off the two-centuries-old parchment.
Separately, the government is making seven encasements for the documents consisting of titanium, aluminum and tempered glass and filled with argon gas to preserve the documents.
Rick Judson, manager of the encasement project at the archives, said
specially designed monitoring systems will track conditions within the cases to warn of water vapor or oxygen that could damage the charters.
Renovation of the archives will cost $103 million, while the cost of new housing for the charters is set at $4.8 million. Funds to restore the murals will be raised through donations, an archives spokeswoman said.
Since 1952, the documents have been displayed in helium-filled cases created by the former National Bureau of Standards. They are currently retracted into a single steel and copper vault built by Hamilton, Ohio-based Mosler, another maker of safes and vaults.
Mosler was the only other bidder on the vault project last year, when the federal government awarded the contract to Diebold.