About the National Archives

Archivist's welcome December 11, 2014

Thursday, 12/11, at 7 p.m. McGowan Theater, Archives I

Who is the Archivist?

David S. Ferriero

David S. Ferriero The Archivist of the United States is the head of our agency, appointed by the President of the United States.

The AOTUS Blog
What's an Archivist?

Good evening. I'm David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. Welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives in Washington, DC, for a look back at holidays at the White House.

Whether you're here in this theater or watching live through YouTube, we're very glad you could be with us tonight to relive White House holiday decorations of past decades and the present day. The President's house is a historic site, a public building, and a home—and the annual holiday decorations and special tours touch all of these roles.

We've got an impressive roster of guests who will share their insights and expertise, starting with our moderator,

  • Tim Gunn, along with
  • Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon Johnson
  • Genevieve Gorder, host of HGTV's White House Christmas
  • Former White House Chief Usher Gary Walters, and
  • Coleen Christian Burke, author of Christmas with the First Ladies.

I also want to extend thanks to our partner for tonight's program, the White House Historical Association, and its president, Stewart McLaurin.

Before we begin, though, I'd like to tell you about two other programs coming up soon in this theater:

On Tuesday, December 16, at noon, we will show a compelling film chronicle of The Battle of the Bulge—on the 70th anniversary of day the battle began—that includes newsreel footage and film from German and American archives.

Next month, on Wednesday, January 14, at 7 p.m. we will present Moana with Sound.

Documentary film pioneer Robert Flaherty first released the silent film Moana in 1926; his daughter returned to Samoa in 1975 to create a soundtrack for her parents' film. Curator Bruce Posner, who has recently digitally restored the film, will introduce the screening, which is presented in partnership with the National Gallery of Art.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive the Calendar by regular mail or email. You'll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved in the National Archives is to become a member of the Foundation for the National Archives. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby.

* * *

Just over two months ago, we were delighted to have Tim Gunn here to moderate a discussion of First Ladies' fashions. Those of you who know of Tim Gunn only through Project Runway may have wondered why he is our host tonight. Lynda Johnson Robb lived through several White House Christmases during her father's years as President. Former Chief Usher Gary Walters saw more than 30 holiday seasons at the White House. But what is Tim's connection to Christmas at the White House?  I'll let Tim tell you the story during the program.

The photos and even the tree decorations are preserved in our Presidential Libraries which span the administrations of Herbert Hoover through George W. Bush.  As a special treat tonight, we have a selection of ornaments from  the LBJ Library  in Austin Texas on stage with us.  At the conclusion of the program I welcome you to come up on the stage and take a closer look.   

The National Archives shares this interest in White House Christmases with our partner for tonight's program, The White House Historical Association.  To get us started, please welcome Stewart McLaurin, president of the Association.