A copy of the American Declaration of Independence held in Chichester will be seen by the President of the United States on his state visit to the UK today (Tuesday, June 4).
The document, which is one of only two known ceremonial parchment manuscript copies of the Declaration of Independence, has been packaged up in a secure, steel box, to be taken from the West Sussex Records Office to 10 Downing Street and presented to Donald Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May by West Sussex County Archivist Wendy Walker.
Speaking yesterday (Monday), Wendy said: "It will be a hugely special moment for this document and for us. It relates to the founding of America as an independent country.
"It will be transported by a specialist removal firm. The van will be kept secure and it will be ensured that the document will be kept in the right temperature and humidity throughout the journey. When it gets to number 10, it will be stored in a conservation grade, expedition case which has been loaned to us by Hereford Cathedral.
"I am feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement. It is going to be a tremendous occasion. It's a huge opportunity to be able to do this and it's not something you get to do every day."
When asked what the feeling of the records office would be if Donald Trump asked to take the parchment back to USA, Wendy said: "This is a document which has been here for 200 years and it is part of West Sussex's history. It is actually owned by West Sussex County Council.
"That doesn't mean we are not working with our colleagues in the United States to see if it is possible for a future loan. Particularly in 2026, we've got the 250th anniversary of the declaration."
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex viewed the rare parchment copy of the American Declaration of Independence at Edes House during their visit in October. Read more here.
Wendy said the story of how the document came to this country and the records office has been the subject of a three-year research project.
"We have been working with Harvard University, the Library of Congress and the British library, where there has been some scientific tests done to authenticate it," she continued.
"We've had this in the archives since 1956 and it has been in the UK for at least 200 years. It has been sitting in the archives. We catalogued it online so people knew we had a copy. What wasn't known was the significance of the copy. When Harvard came and had a look at it a few years ago, they were very excited and said it is unlike any other copy they had seen.
"There were other copies made at that time but they were much smaller. This is a much larger one, it's the same size as the original. It's got holes in the corner so it was obviously displayed at some point. That makes this a very special piece of parchment."