Tuesday, August 05, 2008
William J. Clinton Presidential Library
We woke up in Little Rock, had continental breakfast in the hotel lobby, checked out and went in search of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. It wasn't hard to find. There was an audio tour, so we each got one of those. There are photos of the inside of the building here.
The picture above is of the right side of the building. There is supposedly a putting green up on the roof where President Clinton hangs out some. On the way back from the gift shop, a man on our shuttle bus pointed out a man in a yellow shirt up there and claimed it was President Clinton. The rest of my skeptical family has chosen not to buy that story, but I'm embracing the idea that I've seen a president in person. Or at least his shirt. From a distance.
After you go through the security station and buy tickets there's a presidential limousine and an exhibit on the Secret Service. The escalator to the 2nd level takes you to a orientation film which gives a bit of a Clinton introduction. The displays outside the theater cover the elections. From there you can see a replica of the cabinet room and an extensive year-by-year overview of his 2 terms with time lines to put events in context. Alcoves along each side cover aspects of his presidency such as health care, education, foreign policy... There's some coverage of the impeachment.
Upstairs there are examples of gifts given by foreign heads of state, displays of holiday celebrations at the White House, information on how foreign dignitaries are entertained at the White House, some mementos of the Clintons' childhoods, a video the kids liked of roasts and comedy routines.... The model of the Oval Office, with its careful reproductions of the furnishings, is on this level. There is a changing exhibit space on that level, too. When we went the exhibit offered was Breaking the Veils: Women Artists from the Islamic World, which we didn't spend much time in.
I took longer than anybody else to take this tour, which was a bit frustrating for me. I missed a lot, I know, but I did get to see the correspondence with Mister Rogers. That was fun. My favorite part of the museum was the section on books from his personal library. I think the gift shop would have been much improved by a couple of books favored by Clinton and specifically mentioned in the tour -T.S. Eliot and Ralph Ellison, maybe. The gift shop seemed heavily aimed at school groups and we didn't end up buying anything, though we were tempted by the mugs that had all the presidential signatures on them.
The cafe prices were a bit steep for us, so we decided to eat on the road and, as luck would have it, found a Western Sizzlin' before we'd gotten too far.