Remarks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum 25th Anniversary Celebration
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Simi Valley, CA
November 4, 2016
Greetings from Washington. I’m honored to be with you this morning to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.
The mission of the National Archives is to collect, protect, and preserve the records of the U.S. Government and make them available so that the American public can hold its government accountable and learn from our past. We are the final destination of the most important records of the United States. Today, the collection has over 13 billion sheets of paper, 43 million photographs, miles and miles of video and film, and more than 5 billion electronic records—the fastest growing record form. These records start with the Oaths of Allegiance signed by George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge and go all the way up to the Tweets that are being created in the White House as I speak.
The National Archives also administers the network of Presidential Libraries from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush. We now have 13 libraries in total with more than 780 million pages of textual documents and 625,000 museum objects. Work is currently underway to move the Obama presidential records and materials to Chicago as we prepare to build what will be the fourteenth library in the system.
As you know, Presidential Libraries are not libraries in the usual sense. They are archives and museums, bringing together the documents and artifacts of a President, his administration, and his family and presenting them to the public for study and discussion without regard for political considerations or affiliations. Franklin Roosevelt’s founding intent was to have the Presidential Libraries located throughout the country where scholars and school children could learn about their government, the Presidency, and the importance of public service.
Presidential Libraries serve many purposes. On the day this Library was dedicated, more than 6 million pages of documents related to the Reagan administration were released to the public. And since that time, the archival team has processed and opened an additional 18 million records making them available on-line and in the library’s research room.
As President Reagan acknowledged 25 years ago in his remarks at the dedication ceremony, while access to these materials by students and scholars is essential––most of those who enter these doors are not academics. “They are” he said, “ordinary people of all ages, backgrounds, and political persuasions eager to examine their past and to explore a history not always taught in school. For them this institution will be a time capsule of American growth and greatness covering more than a single presidency, honoring more than a single president. Here, visitors will have a chance to tour and study at their leisure the accelerating changes in a fast-forward world.”
I wish to thank all of the Library and Museum staff here in Simi Valley for their tireless efforts to fulfill the President’s vision by improving the experience of our researchers, ensuring the protection of our valued holdings, and greeting hundreds of thousands of visitors to this unique museum. I am fortunate to oversee a wonderful staff who work across the country for the National Archives––a diverse group of talented individuals who love what they do and do it well, which is one of the reasons I have such respect for them. People I meet in my travels often say that the National Archives holds wonderful treasures in its vaults. Among those treasures, however, are the ones who go home at night—our staff.
I would also like to express my appreciation to the Reagan Foundation for their continued support of this Library and Museum and for the resources and expertise they contribute to this unique public-private partnership which has led to a number of crowning achievements including the redesign of the permanent exhibit galleries in 2011, the building of the Air Force One pavilion, the development of a number of blockbuster temporary exhibits, and the protection of 300 acres of land surrounding this magnificent site.
Without the support of the presidential foundations, the National Archives and the Presidential Libraries would be unable to deliver the rich programming, digital access, and museum experiences now being enjoyed by millions of visitors across the country each year.
The Reagan Library, perched high upon this beautiful hilltop, is a shining example of how two institutions working together as partners can have a dramatic impact on the community as well as the country. The Reagan Library and Museum is the most visited within the Presidential Library system and offers innovative educational programming including the Discovery Center and the Situation Room Experience.
Presidential Libraries bring the presidency to the people inspiring new generations to civic engagement and to consider pursuing careers in public service. As we celebrate this past quarter century of remarkable achievements and look forward to the next chapter in the Reagan Library’s history, I applaud the efforts of all those at the Library, Foundation, and in this community who have supported this institution over the past 25 years. I am proud to be associated with your past and continued success.