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.
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.
Beyond creating exhibits and overseeing the museum the most important part of the curator’s job is to help the public feel invited, excite them to learn, and engage them with the subject. Coming from a historically rich family background and a strong passion for history, Mr. Swan feels compelled when brainstorming new ideas to keep the guests in mind first and foremost because it is for the guests that the staff does their best to bring to life the incredible experiences of President Reagan.
Through this process the curator does not just design exhibits or upkeep the museum, he or she creates an experience. Why does one visit a museum? It is not just to look at all the artifacts, read all the labels and walk away with new or existing knowledge but it is to enjoy the experience. As Mr. Swan explained in his interview, one comes to a museum to also enjoy their time and turn it into a full experience. Through the senses one can touch artifacts, see once personally owned items, hear speeches and interviews and talk about what one learned while at the museum. As museum staff it is our job to not only bring these people or time periods to life but to preserve them because no one owns history. History is for everyone to enjoy together. This job is the one that Mr. Swan takes the most care and pride in. Bringing the people not only the best experience possible but sharing it with everyone who is willing to learn and grow from it.