One of the main things we wanted to do while we were in Little Rock was visit the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. Since we have had good luck visiting the libraries on Sunday we decided that would be a good day to go, but we ran into some trouble validating they were actually open. The hours of operation were conflicting on their website and Google maps stated they were closed so Lee called multiple times until he reached a live person to ask. It was a good thing he did because we learned they didn’t open until 1pm AND we had to prove vaccination status prior to entry and that turned out to be the case. We saw two young men turned away because they didn’t have their cards. Thankfully we had ours but I will say this is the first place we have been in two years that required them.
The building itself sits on a nice piece of property which runs along the river. It has nice views with an outdoor seating restaurant and a display of environmental art globes in the yard. The foundation is also partially funding a walking path across an old train bridge. I wasn’t crazy about the architecture, but the restaurant did look nice and we learned the space is often used for events.
The bulk of the library is on the second and third floor and this one also didn’t follow a chronology of his life. Instead the second floor jumped right into his presidency, with a floor jam packed with displays. They also had a mockup of the cabinet room which was pretty interesting. I didn’t realize all the chairs had the titles on the back of them
The sides were each devoted to an important topic and that’s where the information on the Impeachment was. I was extremely curious about how that would be handled, and was not surprised that there was minimal information and it was slanted towards his perspective. That seems to be a pattern in modern presidential museums. There was one mention of Monica Lewinski’s name, and admission of an inappropriate relationship, and lots of words about the constitutionality of what was done.
There was lots of information about various initiatives (some of which I had forgotten) and Hilary’s contributions were consistently shown throughout which was nice. Unlike many libraries which have a separate First Lady section she was on most displays.
Overall the second floor was ok but I actually loved the third floor the most. It had a recreation of the oval office, gifts, the china, and my favorite part artifacts from their childhood. Not sure why all of this was tucked up in a corner, but it was my favorite part of the museum and where I ultimately spent the most time.
My favorite part though was the information about their early lives. Bill’s father died in a car accident while traveling from work before he was born and while his mother went to nursing school he was raised by his grandparents in Hope, Arkansas. His mother eventually remarried Roger Clinton and Bill took his last name. He graduated from Hot Springs High School and met Hilary in College. She was very successful herself, but ultimately gave up her career to support his. I found it all very interesting. She almost didn’t follow him back to Arkansas and I wonder how history would have played out if she would have made a different choice.
After we toured the building I asked if there was a grave site and one of the employees showed us a circle that was prepared in the last two years. I have to wonder how this would have been handled if Hilary had become president. Where would they have put her library and since presidents are usually buried near their libraries would they have been buried separately? For now at least it appears they will be buried here.
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