What goes into making a Federal holiday: Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


Today’s post in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day was written and researched by Gina Resetter and Kelly Barton, Archivists at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.


What goes into making a federal holiday? Sometimes, more than one would expect.

On November 2, 1983 President Reagan signed into law the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. day as a federal holiday to honor an American visionary, civil rights activist, and champion of the downtrodden. Many states celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day before its federal recognition in 1983.  Within President Reagan’s administration there was much debate about the best way to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Amending America: The 20th Amendment, January 20, and Presidential Inaugurations

Later this month on January 20, if you follow the Reagan Presidential Library on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram , or any of the other Presidential Libraries for that matter, you might notice something: every President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second term has been sworn into office on January 20.  Those of you with perfect recall for dates, might remember, however, that President Reagan’s second term inauguration happened on January 21, 1985, right?  How did that happen?  What about all the Presidents of the United States before Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when were they sworn in?


Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Warren Berger swore in President Reagan for his second term in this public ceremony on January 21, 1985, as President Reagan’s wife Nancy Reagan looks on.  C26877-14

Continue reading

Posted in Amending America, Presidential History, Student Resources, Teacher Resources, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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.

Besides the curation staff and 3D artifacts, the other main part of the museum is the paper and audio visual archives. These documents were part of the administration as well as personal documents that are held in a vault. There are over 65 million documents held here at the Reagan that are preserved and cared for by our archivists Ira Pemstein, Whitney Ross, and the archivist team.

Photograph of the Reagan Presidential Library Research Room.

The 65 million documents in our archives are open to researchers and the general public through our Research Room.

Both as I mentioned are archivists but Mr. Pemstein is the main supervisory archivist for paper and audio visual archives. Both help with the research room, where the public can request to look at and research documents, as well as preservation and maintenance of all the documents. Similar to the museum registrar, it is up to the archive staff to look after all 65 million documents. Some of the documents have not been processed from their original boxes yet from when they were shipped from the White House to the museum. Each document is carefully accounted for and censored to help protect names and confidential information. Then they are organized into specialized folders and boxes that counteract the effects from the acidity of the paper. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Who’s Who at the Reagan Presidential Library: Exhibit Specialist

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

Here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum we have an incredible staff that brings to life all of the fun and engaging exhibits you see every year. From the Disney Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives to our current Vatican Splendors exhibits, we at the Reagan enjoy time and time again putting together fantastic exhibits that not only excite our guests but also allow them to learn more about our fortieth president. Through this series we will dive into our curatorial and archivist staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes to bring our guests not only our interesting exhibits but also our permanent museum that highlights former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan.


Rob Zucca was instrumental in rebuilding the White House Situation Room at the Reagan Presidential Library with the original materials taken directly from the White House.

Rob Zucca is our Exhibit Specialist and works on projects for the entire museum. Some of these projects include the new Situation Room Experience and The Discovery Center as well as all the exhibits you see here when you visit. Rob has been with the Reagan for 15 years now and comes from an architectural background. When asked exactly what an Exhibit Specialist does Rob explains that it is different every day. From collaborating with the other curatorial staff to helping figure out a maintenance problem, the exhibit specialist has a wide range of knowledge that is vital to the museum’s success.

Besides the exhibits in the main museum, Rob has also assisted the Education Department in their school programs such as the Discovery Center and the brand new Situation Room Experience. Both are engaging and exciting programs, the Discovery Center being for 5-8 grade and the Situation room being for high school and college students, to assist the students in learning about President Reagan and government through leadership roles. Rob as a matter of fact won an award for his work in the Situation Room while I was interviewing him.

When asked about his role Rob explained it is different every day and he enjoys the challenges that come with the position. The exciting part is people he gets to interact with and the items he has the ability to work with. An example would be above Rob’s desk is a picture of himself with former President George W. Bush. He described to me how met President Bush at an event and even had the former President mention him in a speech at the same event. Events like that are what help inspire Rob in his work. Together with the other members of the curatorial team Rob plays an important role in bringing to life the incredible works of our former president and first lady.

Posted in Museum Studies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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. Continue reading

Posted in Exhibits, Museum Studies | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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.

curatorial group photo 2

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“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.

Continue reading

Posted in Presidential History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Continue reading

Posted in Presidential History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.
Continue reading

Posted in Presidential History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That’s a wrap! Film This! 2016 brings film industry experience to high school students

film this 2016 b group photo

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.

atticus speaks to group twitter size

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!

Continue reading

Posted in Film This!, Presidential History, Student Stories, Teacher Stories, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment