By What Right…The Constitution and Civil Liberties


Commonwealth Museum (Massachusetts State Archives)




Boston, MA


“Sand was contracted with the Massachusetts State Archives’ Commonwealth Museum and designed an interactive exhibit celebrating the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. ‘By What Right’ features a series of vignettes in videodisk format that encourage visitors to confront provocative civil liberties issues that effect our daily lives. Working with a software development firm, Sand also designed an animated timeline highlighting the two hundred year history of the Constitution.” (Source: Michael Sand, Inc. promotional booklet)

In 1991, a teacher’s study guide was released, explaining: “The controversial rights questions considered in the video remain the subject of constant, and often angry, debate.” Sand’s interactive kiosks walked visiting students through a series of constitutional questions and invited them to vote in on the following sample legal cases, as if they were Supreme Court justices:

  • Protection from unreasonable searches
    (school locker search)
  • Freedom of speech (censorship)
  • Protection against cruel and unusual punishment (the death penalty)
  • Freedom of religion (prayer in classroom)


From the study guide:

“In each video segment, an actor or actress reviews the current legal status of the issue, including recent Supreme Court rulings or state court interpretation. Sam Adams in puppet form provides historical background. Adams speaks across two centuries to suggest the aims of the Constitution’s authors and to make clear that the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written in a very different social context. Many of the issues on which current civil liberties controversies are based were unknown at the time the Constitution was composed. At the end of each rights segment, the video can be stopped and students can vote. As part of citizenship education, students can learn about important problems and take a stand on them.”