My visit to Little Rock's new William J. Clinton Presidential Library by Will Robertson
Today, Wednesday, January 12, 2005, I visited the Clinton Library. It's not my favorite architecture, glass and steel, but it's nice, and it works with the site and the message that it gives. In fact I had a wonderful, informative, even inspired experience.
I went with a good friend, Craig. We met in the lobby. He showed me the Cabinet Room replica, and then we ran to catch the next viewing of the 20 minute introductory film about Clinton, his presidency, and the library/museum.
The film was well worth the time. It's well done and informative - at least to me.
Afterward, we strolled through the museum displays. Well, I strolled; my companion had done an internship in Washington and was immediately glued to the first exhibit. I moved on and made a quick brush. In 45 minutes Craig had only gotten to the third exhibit out of 16.
We were both hungry and went down to the restaurant on the lowest level overlooking the river. It looked pretty busy, so we walked to the River Market, only five minutes away. At the Farmer's Market I had a big ole salad and Craig had a Turkish Stew. We sat at a picnic table in front of the amphitheater overlooking the Arkansas River.
After lunch we stopped at the Clinton Museum Store. It had a bunch of interesting and silly Clinton souvenirs and other stuff. This is the place to go for a Clinton bobble-head.
Remember to keep your ticket handy if you leave the Clinton Library like we did. The ticket has the date on it and you can come and go all you like that day.
The crowds both at the Clinton Library and the River Market were diverse and lively, but not dense or annoying. There were several high school and college groups (20-30 people). A few small groups of Seniors (6-10 people) milled around here and there.
The staff at the Clinton Library was really helpful and sweet, though not fully up to speed on the details. In fact I saw one staff member in the museum section reading up on some of the same brochures I had just gotten in the lobby. Oh well, they'll get the hang of it.
One staff member shared a few facts she had memorized about the Clinton papers, the "library." Apparently the ones in the museum represented only 1% of the actual amount. The other papers are stored in archives on site and will be made available to the public soon. The ones in the museum were in boxes, on shelves, secured by metal bars, so you couldn't read those either.
That's not really a library in my mind, but I didn't want to go through all those papers anyway. I was interested in the Daryl Hammon video and the Oval Office replica. I also liked Chelsea's tiny ballet shoes, displayed under glass. I wondered if she ever wants them back?
The building is floored throughout with light stained hardwood. Very beautiful. The day was overcast, but the whole place was still flooded with light, as you might guess from all the windows. Photographers will be thankful, because you aren't allowed to use a flash. That's one point the entire staff is clear on.
How many times would you have to flash a replica Cabinet member chair to fade the original, 1,500 miles away in Washington? I didn't get it; but I'm sure they have good reasons.
The elevators are on the first floor in the main lobby. There are also stairs and an escalator to the second floor. There are several tidy bathrooms at different location in the building, all very accessible.
Floor space is plentiful, the exhibits are layed out well, and crowds flowed well. Only a few times people got congested around some of the videos that play throughout the building.
Inside the main row of exhibits in the museum, Clinton's voice can be heard from several (3-6) speakers at any one location simultaneously. The ambience was lively, and the effect was energizing, though it wore me out after a couple hours. Not so with Craig, he stayed a total of 7 hours until they closed at 5:00 PM.
On the 2 - 300 yard stroll back to the parking lot, I ducked in Mr. Clinton's new School of Public Service. It's housed in the red brick, historic Choctaw Train Station. The builders have done a very classy remodel. It certainly seemed an uplifting atmosphere for improving your brain cells.
Before opening my car door, I did a slow 360 to take in the panorama. Huge lawns of sod and landscaping are just taking root around the Clinton Library. The city skyline is blossoming with fresh, invigorating building projects. The River Market district has a new energy with its trolley, mounted police, and a river walk (soon to connect with North Little Rock across the now defunct train trestle in front of the Clinton Library). Also Heifer Project International Village Complex is being built next door.
Downtown Little Rock is becoming a fun spot. Driving away I looked forward to another lazy afternoon exploring the area.
About the Author
Outdoors Adventurer, Writer and Webmaster Will Robertson lives with his family in Little Rock, Arkansas.
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