By Diane Ako
Nine year old Donovan picked this one, after doing a school project on it. He wanted to see the Ronald Reagan Presidental Library & Museum. A library?, I thought. But it turns out Presidential Libraries aren't actually libraries. They're archives and museums, preserving the history of our presidents.
It started with President Roosevelt. He raised private funds to build a library, which he gave to the US government through the National Archives. It's so that we can explore our country's heritage by looking at the documents and artifacts that make up our President. There are 13 in all across the country.
So now I've learned something new.
This museum opened in 1991 atop a mountain with gorgeous views of Simi Valley, clear to the Pacific Ocean. It's 100 acres, so allow for at least half a day to meander through the building and grounds, especially if you're going to drive the 45 minutes from LA.
It's pretty much set up like a museum, with rooms that guide you through Ronald Reagan's life, starting from birth. While looking at his old high school photos, I heard a lot of people remarking how handsome and athletic he was. Next, a series of photos and artifacts about his Hollywood years, during which he met Nancy Reagan. Then, visitors can follow his campaign trail, from two-term Governor of California, to 40th President of the United States.
There are rooms dedicated to historic periods in his administration, like the Cold War. You can look at his motorcade. You can even tour Air Force One. Yes, there is an ENTIRE JUMBO JET in the building!
No flash photography is allowed, so pardon the yellow and blurred quality of my photos. No photography at all is allowed in Air Force One.
I was very curious about it, having covered many Presidential visits in my time as a reporter. I always wondered what it might be like to be the press on board, but that was always for the national media.
Sept. 8, 2007
I finally found out. They have a room at the very, very end of the plane. Still, looked pretty comfortable to me. I'll take that over commercial coach any day!
We were lucky to catch a traveling display of the world-famous White House Exhibit, a 20 foot wide by 60 foot long dollhouse of the White House. It's a one inch: one foot scale. Amazing.
It took John and Jan Zweifel over 600,000 hours to create, and it's a replica of the entire house and grounds, from the Lincoln bedroom to the Oval Office. It's only there for a year, so it leaves in March 2011.
BERLIN WALL AND SOUTH LAWN
There's an actual piece of the Berlin Wall, which was presented to President Reagan on April 12, 1990. The Wall is outside, sitting in a reproduction of the White House South Lawn - except this lawn has great vistas of the Pacific Ocean.
We played out there for the better part of an hour, and this ended up being my favorite part of the tour. There is a little grove of well-manicured trees, which ladybugs apparently really like. The children found them, and we all ended up huddling around the base of the trees to count and admire them. There were dozens on and around each tree.
We met up with a friend, so in all, there were six kids, and I think they needed this outlet. They were starting to bounce off the walls of the museum.
I'm glad I went. It was a compelling, educational experience!
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