Waste & Remembrance


Jeremy Blachman explores what the hell is up with Presidential Libraries, as he writes about his recent Reagan Library visit, and the abiding strangeness of the place.

“The Ronald Reagan museum is a waste of a museum. Regardless of what someone thinks about Ronald Reagan, it’s pretty hard to argue with the idea that there is a compelling story that his museum should be able to tell …Reagan had eight years in office… And they totally wasted the chance to do anything even remotely interesting, educational, relevant, or thoughtful with the Reagan museum… the biggest exhibit in the museum — and the one you’re channeled to right when you enter! — is a collection of Nancy Reagan’s gowns, each one carefully placed on a mannequin and accompanied by a placard that tells you the designer and when Nancy wore it. “Lunch with friends, November 14, 2002.” …There’s more space devoted to the dresses than to Reagan’s presidency. Next came a short video about the museum. About Reagan? No, not really. About the location and size of the museum, and the restaurant in the back and the piece of the real Berlin Wall we could find in the courtyard… The only thing lingered on? A whole bunch of display cases of his love letters to Nancy…I know he wrote a whole bunch of radio addresses in the 4 years before he ran for President, but those aren’t mentioned. Neither are, oh, I don’t know, any presidential speeches he may have had a hand in, or at least that he delivered even if he didn’t write them…it appears that the only thing he ever wrote, in all his life, were love letters to Nancy…and then you get to the final exhibit — the life of Nancy. …and then there’s Reagan’s tomb, and a lonely piece of the Berlin Wall outside (as opposed to the two replica wall pieces inside, which make no sense — why not just bring the real one inside, and fit it into the exhibit)…it just made me angry that it was such a missed opportunity to be interesting. .. Can’t you do more than show Nancy’s dresses? Can’t you make an intelligent, interesting museum out of what’s out there? Apparently not.”

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