Who’s Who at the Reagan Presidential Library: The Registrar

Today’s blog is a guest post from our Summer Intern Victoria exploring the staff in the National Archives and Records Administration office at the Reagan Presidential Library.

When one visits a museum they see the fascinating artifacts and beautiful art that fill each exhibit. These items are part of what make a museum special and unique. Yet where does a museum receive these items? How does the museum keep track of all of these items? That is the job of our Registrar.

white house tissue dispenser

This White House tissue cozy was a gift to President Reagan and is stored in our collections.

Dr. Jennifer Torres as you have seen in past blog posts is the Registrar here at the Reagan and is in charge of keeping track, updating and handling every item in the collection. That means that every artifact you see in the museum is documented and tagged in our database. This also includes artifacts and art for special exhibits and pieces you don’t see that are right beneath your feet in our collections house.

As a presidential library that houses thousands and thousands of artifacts, pieces of art, paper documents and audio visuals the task at hand for documenting and caring for each one is tedious. The entire Reagan collection itself, including only 3D artifacts and artwork, is 62,317 pieces. Add that to the 65 million paper documents and audio visual in our archives and you have a vast amount of information on President Reagan throughout not only his presidency but his life.

So now we know where all the items are, what kind of artifacts do we have? Well here at the Reagan we have a very eclectic range of artifacts that start with gifts for President Reagan, various pieces from the White House years, and personal belongings of the Reagans themselves. The oldest artifact we possess is a piece of fossilized amber from the Dominican Republic that is 60 million years old.  So if you have ever wondered how we acquired all of our pieces we would say from various sources and areas. For diplomats who come to visit the library from different countries Dr. Torres will put together a mini exhibit that will highlight different pieces that we have from that country. These diplomats include the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the President of Taiwan, and the President of Ghana.

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This non-secure telephone from the White House is kept in our collections.

Along with mini exhibits Dr. Torres also collaborates with the other curatorial staff in developing new and upcoming exhibits along with updating the main museum. You may have noticed certain items that you haven’t seen before in one of the main rooms or special artifacts that have been put on display for a temporary exhibit. The registrar will document and prepare all of the pieces that belongs to that particular room or exhibit. Each room and exhibit is also documented and filed, so for example if one wanted information on the Magna Carta exhibit the registrar has all the information of which pieces were used.

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A White House plate from our collection.

As one can tell the Registrar is both a difficult yet rewarding job. With a massive collection to keep track and care for it is no wonder that the museum is constantly evolving and changing. We can thank our wonderful registrar for handling our massive collection and always giving our guests something exciting and new to see when they visit.




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Who’s Who at the Reagan Library: The Supervisory Curator

Today’s blog is a guest post from our Summer Intern Victoria exploring the roles of staff in the National Archives and Records Administration office at the Reagan Presidential Library.  Over the summer Victoria worked in our offices and got to know the ins and outs of how we function as both a museum and research archive.  Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing her posts and perspectives.

Remembering my most recent trip to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, just seeing the very first introduction video of President Reagan saluting from the ramp of Air Force One set the tone for the rest of my visit. Even though I personally did not live through his presidency I still feel a connection to our former president through letters he sent to Nancy, his suit the day he spoke his famous phrase “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall,” and finally the flag flown at his funeral service. These artifacts, videos, and pictures create a welcoming atmosphere that invites me to learn more about Ronald Reagan and his amazing life. It is not just the case here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum but at every museum or historical site one visits. It is through proper settings, well placed visuals, and planned out exhibits that excite people to visit a museum and learn more about that subject or person. It is making a connection between viewer and subject that drives all museums and we are no exception.

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Me with the Curatorial Staff Left to Right: Dr. Jennifer Torres, Rob Zucca, Lauren , Meredith Nichter, Me, and Supervisory Curator Randy Swan.

This is where our curator comes in. Our distinguished supervisory curator Randy Swan is in charge of planning, building and overseeing the exhibits one sees when they visit. Our entire curatorial staff collaborates together to bring the public the best showcase possible but it is the curator’s job to supervise and attend to this project. Not only this, but also to oversee the welfare of the library as well. This is to protect and care for all of the artifacts and pieces inside the museum. Continue reading

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“Reaganomics”: The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981

Today’s blog marks a return to our focus on creating classroom-ready resources for teachers and students, as today is the first day of school for many school districts. Welcome back to school.

“Our bill is, in short, the first real tax cut for everyone in twenty years.”  Ronald Reagan, July 27, 1981.

President Reagan’s first year in office was tumultuous to say the least. Minutes after he took the oath of office Iran released the hostages trapped inside the United States embassy. Sixty-nine days into his term the President was shot and seriously wounded by a .22 caliber bullet fired from John Hinckley’s gun. Only seven months into his term he faced a major crisis when the nation’s air traffic controllers decided to conduct an illegal strike.  President Reagan had run a campaign that focused on his desire to tackle three challenges: the economic morass the nation was in, diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, and modernizing the United States armed services.  Thirty-five years ago, going in to the second half of his first year in office, the President and his fledgling administration had been unable to make significant progress towards these goals, although the President’s approval rating remained over 50 percent.

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Ronald Reagan’s remarks when the Olympic Torch came to the White House in 1984

14 May 1984 – John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles was flickering across the nation’s silver screens, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was born in White Plains, N.Y., and in Washington, D.C. the Olympic Torch came to the White House on its way to Los Angeles. President Reagan delivered a brief speech then attempted to help the two torch bearers light the new torch. Gymnast Kurt Thomas, who had competed in Men’s Gymnastics  in 1976 at the Munich Olympiad and is also known as the star of the cult-classic film Gymkata, tried for several minutes to light the torch carried by Charlotte Pearson, a Special Olympics competitor.  You’ll have to watch the video to see how it worked out in the end.

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On This Day: Reagan and the Air Traffic Controllers

Thirty-five years ago on Monday August 3, 1981 members of PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, went on strike at 7 A.M.  Shortly before 11 A.M. President Reagan delivered the above remarks from the White House Rose Garden.
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That’s a wrap! Film This! 2016 brings film industry experience to high school students

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Students from the second session of Film This! 2016 along with Instructors Eric and Sue Van Hamersveld and Student Instructor Atticus Shaffer.

This summer break while many high school students are flocking to movie theaters, chasing Pokemon, or learning the intricacies of menial labor, the Reagan Presidential Library has been hosting our annual filmmaking workshops that connect young minds with experienced teachers.  Since 2013 Film This! has brought educators Eric Van Hamersveld and Sue Van Hamersveld to our sprawling mountain-top campus to impart their wisdom gained through thirty years of experience both on-set and as collegiate instructors.

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Atticus Shaffer speaks to a group of students in the first session.

For 2016 the Van Hamersvelds were joined by actor Atticus Shaffer who served as a student instructor and brought his own on-set experience to our students.  Over the course of a week students learn and apply filmmaking concepts as they research, film, and edit a five-minute documentary film focusing on United States history.  In addition to his role as an instructor, this year Atticus also shot and edited a promo to let the world know about Film This!

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Amending America: This Day in History the 14th Amendment Became Law

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Page 1 of the Joint Resolution proposing the 14 Amendment.  NARA ID: 1408913

July 28, 1868 is only one of many important dates wrapped up in the history of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  On that day this amendment which continues to be at the heart of many issues facing our nation was certified by Secretary of State William Seward.   While there is still vigorous debate as to the exact intent of this law in legal and historical circles, many believe one of the main purposes of the law was to extend to all citizens, especially the newly freed slaves, the same protections against State governments which the Bill of Rights granted them against the Federal government.  The Fourteenth Amendment also granted freed slaves citizenship, limited the rights of former Confederates to serve as United States Government officials, repealed the “three-fifths” clause in Article I Section 2 of the United States Constitution, and famously guaranteed equal protection under the law for all citizens.

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Secretary of State William Seward served under both President Abraham Lincoln and his unpopular successor President Andrew Johnson.  NARA ID: 52639

Written during Reconstruction by Radical Republican Representative John Bingham from Ohio, the amendment arose during a time of great tumult and change in United States history and has continued to be at the heart of many of the United States biggest controversies.  You can read more about how the Fourteenth Amendment was a factor in Supreme Court decisions regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, Roe v. Wade, interracial marriage, Chinese immigration, and more here at Pieces of History.  The amendment consists of five sections which address respectively: citizenship, Congressional representation and voting-rights of males, ineligibility for government service as any sort of elected or appointed official by those who have participated in rebellion unless the individual in question is approved for service by a two-thirds majority of each House of Congress, the public debt of the United States and establishing that the United States would not pay the debts of the Confederate government or any other rebellion, and the right of Congress to legislate further to support the amendment. Continue reading

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Ronald Reagan and the Republican National Convention

This year one of our projects at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library has been to digitize and upload to our public YouTube channel many of President Reagan’s iconic speeches. Our Audiovisual Archivist is spearheading this task to create a resource for students, teachers, and the general public alike.  Every year elementary and high school teachers across the country assign their students social studies projects around the United States Presidency.  While elementary-age students may be expected to write simple biographical reviews of the lives of past Presidents, high school and university students often face the daunting task of finding sources for in-depth research papers.  It is to meet all of those needs that our channel was created.  After only a few months of hard work from our Audiovisual staff we have made available 161, and counting, videos of speeches from Ronald Reagan in their entirety.

The National Archives Mission reads:

Our Mission is to provide public access to Federal Government records in our custody and control. Public access to government records strengthens democracy by allowing Americans to claim their rights of citizenship, hold their government accountable, and understand their history so they can participate more effectively in their government.

In keeping with that mission this week on our blog we present to you unabridged The Great Communicator’s speeches from the 1980, 1984, and 1988 Republican National Conventions.  With the current Republican National Convention happening this week in Cleveland, Ohio we know many Americans will turn their attention to past conventions and campaigns.

At the top of this article is Mr. Reagan’s acceptance speech from 1980, click continue reading to see the speeches from 1984 and 1988. Continue reading

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The White House: Inside Stories from the Reagan Presidential Library Part II

Continuing our series on items and installations from the White House on display or in our collections.  Click here for Part I and click here to see the website for the PBS documentary The White House: Inside Story.

White House tissue dispenser

A citizen made this tissue cozy and sent it to the White House as a gift during Mr. Reagan’s presidency.   Recently he visited from Michigan and was able to see his gift, carefully preserved here at the Reagan Presidential Library.

The Executive Mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. serves not only as the First Family’s residence, but also as the working space for the President, Vice President, their staff, and high-level executive office officials.  The White House also serves as a center of international diplomacy where heads-of-state, trade officials, business leaders, military heroes, and other dignitaries are received.  Often these visiting luminaries bring with them gifts for the President.

In fact, according to Registrar Jennifer Torres, gifts received during his tenure in office make up the largest portion of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museums 62,317 items in our collections.  Ms. Torres took some time to show us some objects from the collections that relate to the White House and date to President Reagan’s years as its resident.

 Listen to the interview with Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Registrar Jennifer Torres to find out what’s inside the White House egg and more. Continue reading

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The White House: Inside Stories from the Reagan Presidential Library Part I

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The Oval Office exhibit at the Reagan Presidential Library

Click here for part II to learn about more of the items from the White House in our collections.

Tonight PBS will air a documentary special The White House: Inside Story examining life in, the history of, and everything about the Presidential Residence.  The show features interviews with Presidential historians and current and former White House residents in a unique glimpse inside the halls of power.

We went diggingrrpl oval office end table in our collections of approximately 62,317 artifacts in order to bring some pieces of the White House to our readers.  Visitors to our museum will be able to tour past the Oval Office, decorated as it was during President Reagan’s eight years in the White House.  Everything in the Oval Office on site in Simi Valley is either a replica or an authentic artifact so that visitors can experience what it was like to walk into the space where Ronald Reagan worked as President. Everything from the signs on the desk to the lamp on the end table are placed where they were in 1989.

“Secret Spaces” of the Reagan Presidential Library

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The Situation Room at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA.

As with many museums the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum faces the challenge of having more artifacts and objects in our collections than can possibly be displayed.  Even with a museum of over 200,000 square feet there are some artifacts that must be kept in storage.  Some of these artifacts in our care are stored instead of displayed due to their historical value or because they require special environmental conditions.   Continue reading

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