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Presidential History in Arkansas

  • Wang Yiru

U.S. Presidential Libraries are not typical libraries. They are archives and museums where a president's documents and artifacts are preserved for public study and discussion. The libraries are built with private funds and then operated by the National Archives. The newest addition is dedicated to the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton. For producer Wang Yiru, Elaine Lu has more on the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The Clinton Presidential Library and Museum is not only the newest, but the largest containing over 75,000 artifacts, nearly two million photographs and some 76 million pages of documents.

One of the highlights for many visitors is on the second floor. A visitor of the library says, "The Oval Office -- I would never imagine that it would be here. I have always wanted to see what it looks like."

It is a full-scale replica of the Oval Office, the only one in any presidential museum. Jordon Johnson, a library spokesman, says, "President Clinton, when he's here, he likes to walk around his library, sometimes to talk with the visitors here. The Oval is probably a favorite of his and the visitors because it's a true replica, exactly how he left it. I am sure it brings back a lot of memories for him."

Other exhibits also look back on the Clinton presidency including a 33-meter timeline chronicling the key foreign and domestic achievements during his eight years in the White House. The library also touches on the controversies that engulfed Mr. Clinton's second term, including the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the former president's impeachment.

There is also a section dedicated to the former president's music.

A library visitor recalls, "I knew he played saxophones but I didn't know he has such an extensive collection of saxophones."

And another features many of the gifts the former president received during his presidency.

Another visitor says, "We thought those are really cool. We would like to have those items in our house."

The Clinton Presidential Library and Museum traces Mr. Clinton's childhood as well. Artifacts includes his report cards, his doodles and pictures of his life as a child growing up in Arkansas.

Situated on the banks of the Arkansas River the library's main section extends out over the river, a symbolic reminder of Mr. Clinton's campaign pledge of "building a bridge to the 21st century."