What Is Past Is Prologue

What is Past is Prolouge Main copy

While in Washington, DC in 2015, I visited the National Archives with my second mom, Glenna. We were there to view the founding documents of the United States. In preplanning the visit I purchased tickets online. After going through a security screening that is similar to a TSA screening before you board an airplane, we were directed to the Rotunda room where the documents are held under tight security.

It is without a doubt we were both in awe as we viewed the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It was my first time to view these venerated, historical documents.

Security guards were strategically placed around the Rotunda with two standing on each side of the Constitution. Glenna was having a hard time seeing these documents and one of the guard’s beckoned Glenna to step on the marble step he was standing on so she could look closer at the Constitution. I wish I could’ve taken a photo of them both and with her reading the Constitution. No photos are allowed to be taken in the Rotunda. The guard treated Glenna like royalty giving her as much time as she needed.

These collective documents in the National Archives are known as the Charters of Freedom. They secured the rights of the American people and are considered instrumental to the founding and philosophy of the United States.

We made a side trip to the gift shop before we left and walked around the entire building. That’s when we stopped on the northeast corner of the National Archives Building. As I paused by The Future to take a phone call, I noticed the quote “What is past is prologue.” I photographed it not knowing its history or true meaning. I just loved the quote. Given all the ups and downs of my life, I took the quote personally, that everything in my past was indeed prologue and continues to be prologue. Robert Aitken, an American sculptor, inscribed the quote on his sculpture The Future in 1935.

“What is past is prologue” is a quote by William Shakespeare from his play The Tempest. The phrase was originally used in The Tempest, Act 2, Scene I. Antonio uses it to suggest that all that has happened before that time, the “past,” has led Sebastian and himself to this opportunity to do what they are about to do: commit murder.

In contemporary use, What is past is prologue stands for the idea that history sets the context for the present. It’s also commonly used by the military when discussing war similarities throughout history.

If you get a chance to visit the National Archives take the time to walk around the building and to the northeast corner to view this magnificent quote yourself.

As a side note – visiting the Archives is free, but I suggest purchasing timed entry tickets online to make your visit more enjoyable. The Archives can unexpectedly close and with the ticket, you get prenotification, along with a quicker entry. Glenna and I were able to just walk up, go through the screening process, and we were admitted. Here is the link:


This print is available to purchase in 5 x 7, 8 x 10, 11 x 14, and 12 x 16.