We kicked off our Winter 2020 Tour with a visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on January 24, 2020. Oak Park Campground in Simi Valley, California, was a convenient, inexpensive place to park the fifth wheel. They only offer electricity and water as hookups, which was sufficient for the two-night stay.
We backed up to an embankment under a tree, then realized the Los Angeles Metro traversed a set of tracks at the top. The noise was not a problem, though. The trains whisked east and west without a blaring whistle or rumbling of the ground.
The next day we thought we arrived at Reagan’s museum in time to obtain a parking spot. Silly us. We turned around and joined the line of cars on the side of the road.
The Easy Fire in October had caused approximately $500,000 in damage to the library by destroying trees, landscapes, and banners along Presidential Drive. The entire network and cabling were burned, cutting off the internet and point of sale systems. Through hard work from the information systems team, all systems were up and running within 30 hours. Fortunately, the buildings and artifacts remained untouched due to the efforts of fire personnel.
Green shoots popping up through the burn scars below Reagan Presidential Library and Museum
This was our fourth presidential library to visit. Our first three were Lyndon B. Johnson, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. If anyone is interested, our blog posts for each are located here, here, and here, respectively.
Construction of the facility began in 1988, and the center was dedicated on November 4, 1991. The Reagan library and museum is the largest, in terms of size, of the 14 presidential libraries and contains millions of documents, photographs, films, and tapes. Permanent exhibits display the President’s life and his presidency, the Air Force One plane used by the president, and a section of masonry from the Berlin Wall. The property chosen for his library and museum is located in Simi Valley on a hill with views of the surrounding property and more hills in the distance.
Former President Reagan and his wife Nancy greet visitors at the start of the museum.
The museum starts off with Reagan’s early life, high school, and university. Displays include sports memorabilia and photographic posters.
Jon addressed the crowd as Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Jimmy Carter applauded.
A docent stands inside the Oval Office and tells stories about the president and points out the objects in the room. Only a few people at a time can stand and listen to the docent, and there are no photo opportunities allowed while sitting at the desk.
Panels in this hallway display many of the gifts received from foreign dignitaries.
As if they were models, first ladies often wear the most fashionable attire. This case displays only a few of the garments Nancy wore during her time in the White House. The information panel under the black dress in the middle says Nancy added the straps with the bows.
This is what it would look like coming face-to-face with the man, the actor, the 40th president of the free world. It was only a mural on the wall but felt strangely real.
The first half of the museum ends in a hallway that looks out onto the Rose Garden.
We continued down the hall to see the Air Force One Pavilion before taking in the second half of the museum.
The Air Force One Pavilion houses the Boeing 707 aircraft used as Air Force One during Reagan’s administration and by six other presidents until it was retired in 2001. The plane was flown to San Bernardino International Airport where Boeing disassembled it, then trucked it in pieces to the library where it was reassembled and restored.
The pavilion was dedicated on October 24, 2005, by Nancy Reagan, President George W. Bush, and First Lady Laura Bush. Reagan was buried on the library grounds in an underground vault on June 12, 2004. Nancy Reagan was buried next to her husband on March 11, 2016.
The glass wall, massive Air Force One raised on 25-foot (7.5 m) pillars, Reagan’s travel timeline, a Johnson-era Sikorsky VH-3 Sea King helicopter (Marine One), Reagan’s 1984 inaugural presidential limousine, and the history of the Flying White House mural, made this exhibit my favorite part of the whole museum. The 90,000-square-foot (8,400 m2) addition is breathtaking and awe-inspiring.
Inside of Air Force One, visitors can envision life aboard the jet as it raced across the country or toward foreign lands.
A chocolate cake was always on board in case it was someone’s birthday.
Photos are not allowed at the entrance to the jet because someone is there to take your picture for a fee. We settled for the exit and rear of the plane.
Back to the rest of the tour, we walked through exhibits with information on the Camp David Peace Accord, negotiations with Gorbachev, and the Berlin Wall among other historic events during Reagan’s presidency.
Posters and memorabilia depicting life on Rancho del Cielo are also included. Visitors can also have their picture taken riding next to Ronnie at his ranch.
At the end of the tour is this case with iconic memorabilia.
Visitors can also see a 1980s stealth fighter and aircraft used in the first 1981 Gulf of Sidra incident.
A visit to this library can take the whole day, so come early, eat lunch in the cafe, and enjoy all there is to see. In addition to the information on Reagan, the library also hosts special exhibits, which are announced on the website.
We enjoy comparing and contrasting the different presidential libraries and museums. So far, we favor Lyndon B. Johnson’s best, although each of the ones we’ve seen is special and unique.
Next stop: Palm Desert, California, where we poke around and soak up the desert sun.