Treaty of Paris leaves US -- a first!

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There was nothing special to distinguish the casually dressed, middle-aged woman and man who arrived in Ottawa one morning this week on a flight from Washington. That's just the way they wanted it.
The woman, a conservator from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), was carrying one of the most important documents from American history. The man walking nearby was a NARA security officer on hand to make sure it arrived safely at its destination -- an exhibition hall at Library and Archives Canada in downtown Ottawa.

It's a common enough strategy to transport valuable historical material in such a seemingly nonchalant manner. The oldest surviving item printed in Canada, a 1752 copy of the Halifax Gazette, was once taken to Nova Scotia from Ottawa in the carry-on luggage of a Library and Archives employee. The less attention the better, goes the theory.

But the document brought to Ottawa this week will soon be flooded with attention. And it's not just any old priceless document.

Since 1783, when American and British negotiators formally ended the U.S. Revolutionary War by putting their signatures on a 10-article agreement in a Paris hotel room, the Treaty of Paris has never left the United States. In fact, it has been shown only rarely to the public.

Beginning Tuesday, however, it will be sitting under bulletproof glass in Ottawa as the centrepiece of an ambitious two-country exhibition that not only marks the 225th anniversary of the signing, but attempts to show how the treaty shaped the political and social development of the U.S. and what became Canada by establishing borders, fishing rights and opening Canada to United Empire Loyalist settlement.

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