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.
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.
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.
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.