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

rrpl oval office
The Oval Office exhibit at the Reagan Presidential Library

Today’s post comes from Reagan Library Education Department staffer Brett Robert. 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

white house situation room simi valley
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.  

Perhaps our most unique space at the Reagan Presidential Library is the Situation Room Secure Video Transmission Site.   The Situation Room is actually a complex of rooms in the West Wing of the White House.  Exhibit Specialist Rob Zucca spoke with us about the process of how the Situation Room was preserved and shipped piece by piece to the Reagan Presidential Library after the White House Situation Room was upgraded and renovated in 2006.  While the Situation Room is not part of our museum galleries, it is the home of the Situation Room Experience which is a brand new program developed by our education department.  Beginning in the fall of 2016 the Situation Room Experience will be available to high school students as a unique field trip.  Students role play as members of the President’s Cabinet in a challenging and stressful simulation that helps them better understand the structure and function of the United States government.

west wing windowsMr. Zucca spoke of how a surprise came along with the Situation Room materials: windows from the White House’s West Wing that were installed after a fire in 1929 damaged the West Wing.   When the Situation Room was remodeled in 2006, these windows were removed and shipped to Simi Valley where they were carefully installed in a corridor away from the museum’s galleries.



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