Now, let’s get this straight right off the bat: this post has nothing to do with candidates we are or are not endorsing for President. It’s merely a glimpse inside a structure that we visited en route to a wedding in Houston, Texas, with a stopover in Little Rock, Arkansas.
And, to be fair, we’ll be sharing another post (Inside George Bush Presidential Library) since College Station, Texas, was another stop along the way to our Houston wedding. Lucky us — two presidential libraries, one big road trip!
We have to admit — we weren’t sure we’d like the architecture of the Clinton Library. After all, we’d seen pictures of the freight car shape with its cold, gray modern exterior. It just wasn’t something we thought was . . . well, presidential. But once inside, we got it. The building, situated perpendicular to the Arkansas River, affords views of the landscape from its expansive windows that put you front and center with the landscape and pays tribute to America’s heartland.
And what else helped? Immersing ourselves in the timelines (eight sections, one for each year) with their artfully arranged archives . . .
and taking in another favorite — the well-appointed, only-one-in-existence, exact replica of the Oval Office (no photos allowed). Marvelous, to say the least.
Add to that the fun of a day dedicated to Dr. Seuss and seeing groups of school children (Loved this. I’m a teacher, remember?) eager to take a field trip anywhere, but especially to a place this regal. This day had all the makings of a memory waiting to happen in Little Rock!
Bert and I are avid readers in museums. Our legs give out before our minds do — simply because we stand around and read posters, captions, historical materials, anything . . . longer than most people who enter a museum alongside of us do. But reading/learning is what we love. The Clinton Library‘s timelines grabbed us immediately: artfully arranged photos, newspaper clippings, etc., with info about Clinton’s initiatives brought back memories since we’ve lived through the Clinton eras and major programs like restoring the economy, advancing science and technology, and making communities safer. On top of that, no docent had to point out the nearly 5,000 blue boxes of presidential archives housed in floor-to-ceiling columns. They were pretty visible on their own.
I left Bert immersed in the timelines and the boxes so I could go upstairs to view the gifts bestowed on Bill and Hillary, gifts from heads of state all over the world as well as from ordinary citizens tagged with dates and names of donors.
And when Bert finally joined me upstairs, we stood a while by the presidential table setting featuring fine linens, china, and crystal, wondering how it would feel to dine with the First Family in the White House (and doubting our table manners would be up to snuff).
Nothing, however, caught our attention quite like the Dale Chihuly piece on the second floor, not just because Chihuly’s work is unparalleled in the medium of glass but also because this is just stunning on so many levels.
Near this sculpture, a sign explained something else about the architecture of the Clinton Center: The hallway resembles the Long Room in the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin. And you know what? It really does have a similar sense of space.
Floor to ceiling windows offer a glimpse on one side to the 1899 Rock Island Railroad Bridge across the Arkansas River connecting to North Little Rock.
And a panorama of the city can be viewed from windows on another side — along the front of the building. One volunteer told us that the Clintons have a private residence on the top floor of the library/museum that is understandably not open to the public.
The video chronicling Bill Clinton‘s childhood, collegiate years, work and pathway to the highest office in the nation brought back memories since we are contemporaries. But we found most fascinating the footage of Hillary, now running for the highest office herself, in her younger years when she met, dated, and married Bill. And information about her own causes — health insurance for all, adoption and foster care of children, women’s rights — reminded us that First Ladies are leaders in their own right.
And so it was that the Clinton Presidential Center became the first of many presidential libraries we hope to visit. If this is any indication of what the others hold, we can truthfully say that every attempt is made to collect artifacts, quotes, and visuals that visitors would want to see and to house them in a way that anyone can learn more about a President and his or her years in office.
Now, of course, we have another question: if Hillary is elected in November, will there be a whole new library when her term has ended, or will there be an addition to this one? And what will Bill, the First Husband (First Gentleman?) take on as causes? Good questions, we think. Any answers? Or if you’ve visited the Clinton Presidential Center, what were your takeaways?
For more information:
Clinton Presidential Library, 1200 President Clinton Ave.
Little Rock, AR 72201; 501.374.4242. www.clintonlibrary.gov
Open Monday through Saturday from 9 a. m. to 5 p. m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.