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

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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.

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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.

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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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