We arrived at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on a Saturday morning. This was our first visit to a Presidential Library. Fortunately, we allowed a lot of time for the visit. We didn't realize the magnitude of the place and the amount of information that was available. Exhibits combined fascinating artifacts, historical documents, photographs, films, and dozens of interactive displays that made for a pleasant day of history.
The tradition of Presidential Libraries began with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was the first to raise private funds to build a library that opened in 1941. It was later given to the U.S. government for operation through the National Archives. Prior to this time, Presidential papers and records were often lost, destroyed, or sold for profit. There are currently 13 presidential libraries located throughout the U.S., each one offering a special place for all to learn about democracy and our nation—without regard to political considerations.
The Reagan Library, located 45 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, in Simi Valley, CA, is perched on a mountaintop with sweeping views of surrounding mountains and valleys. We entered the grounds on a curving tree-lined mile-long drive with colorful banners with pictures honoring all U.S. Presidents along the way. The library is surrounded by a hundred-acre landscape that includes a full scale replica of the White House Rose Garden, President Reagan's grave site, and a 9 ½ foot-tall, piece of the Berlin Wall that weighs over 6,000 lbs. There are benches and picnic tables—all can be enjoyed without paying the entrance fee that is required for the the library and museum.
The 100,000 square-foot Reagan Museum consists of 24 galleries including a full-scale reproduction of the Oval Office as it appeared during the Reagan Presidency—inclusive of a painting of his hero, President Andrew Jackson, bronze saddles, a jar of jelly beans and plaque, sitting on his desk, that reads: “It CAN by done.”
On display throughout the museum are hundreds of gifts President and Mrs. Reagan received from world leaders, visiting dignitaries and others. There are lovely photos of these visits, and I especially enjoyed looking at the interesting clothing and styles of the time. There were displays of dresses worn by Nancy Reagan in one of the galleries that was devoted entirely to the First Lady.
|AIR FORCE ONE|
Air Force One, that served seven U.S. Presidents and carried Ronald Reagan more than 660,000 miles, is on display and available for boarding. The press, who had to pay their own fare, rode in the rear of the aircraft—the President enjoyed comfortable seating and working arrangements in the front section. Also, located in the Pavilion is the Ronald Reagan Pub which contains original contents from a pub that was named in his honor in Ballyporeen, Ireland—his ancestral homeland. The President would often say “John Kennedy got an airport, Lyndon Johnson got a space center, but I got a pub named after me.” The pub also served as a good place for our much needed coffee break.
Ronald Reagan wrote his thoughts and observations in his personal diary virtually every day during his eight years as president. The Reagan diaries are on display and they can be viewed digitally by date. Throughout all the galleries one can find his personal notes, including love notes to Nancy. He was referred to as the great communicator and famous for his many quotations.
Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, IL in 1911. His family moved around the midwest until they finally settled in Dixon, IL when Ronald was seven years old. He served as the 40th president of the from January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease during his last years of life and died in 2004 at the age of 93.
“I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.” Announcement of Alzheimer's Diagnosis
November 5, 1994
|ACTUAL PIECE OF BERLIN WALL|
|LANDSCAPED GROUNDS SURROUNDING LIBRARY|
|RONALD REAGAN PUB|
LOCATED IN AIR FORCE ONE PAVILION
|VIEW FROM THE REAGAN LIBRARY|