On a hot July 19, 1990, more than 50,000 Nixon friends, family, fans, neighbors, and former administration and campaign officials gathered on the grounds surrounding his modest birthplace, the same site that later became the Richard Nixon Elementary School, to dedicate a $22 million library campus recognizing the life and legacy of America’s 37th President.
A centerpiece of the Library is the President’s birthplace, the humble white farmhouse built by his father where RN was born in 1913. The birthplace is just steps away from the memorials where President Nixon was buried in 1994 and Mrs. Nixon in 1993. Surrounding the galleries, birthplace, and memorials are the spectacular First Lady Gardens, featuring thousands of rose buds, palms, annuals, and perennials.
“The Nixon Library and Birthplace has experienced an extraordinary 24 years of attendance and popular public programming,” said Ronald H. Walker, Foundation Chairman. “Today, we are focused on illuminating the legacy of President Nixon, after having recognized the year-long Centennial celebrations for Mrs. Nixon in 2012 and President Nixon in 2013.”
Twenty-four years and 3.5 million visitors later, the Nixon Foundation has produced the most active public programming of any of the Presidential libraries.
In 2004, the museum nearly doubled in size with the opening of the Katherine B. Loker Center and Annenberg Court entrance pavilion. The 47,000 square foot expansion included an exact replica of the White House East Room – “America’s Grand Ballroom,” the largest room in the Executive Mansion – as both a visitor attraction and an event venue. Through the generosity of Ambassador and Mrs. George Argyros, a board room and conference suite was also built. The addition provided generous space for dinner galas, lectures, school programs, conferences, social events and corporate meetings. The East Room, the Presidential Reception Rooms, and the Argyros Suites are Southern California’s premier special event venue.
The Nixon Foundation presents free family concerts each week as a cultural benefit for the community. The weekly musical menus include school orchestras, barbershop choruses, classical groups, and solo performances by Southern California’s most accomplished musicians, plus many visiting from other countries.
The Nixon Library and Birthplace has traditionally been the most active of all the Libraries in the arena of public affairs and policy programming. Since 1990, the Nixon Foundation has hosted over 350 distinguished speakers, including Presidents, Vice Presidents, First Ladies, many Governors and many members of Congress, several Cabinet secretaries, United Nations Ambassadors, and many foreign leaders, as well as distinguished authors, from Doris Kearns Goodwin to Bill O’Reilly.
The Nixon Foundation has taken full advantage of the communications opportunities provided by the World Wide Web and produces constantly updated programming on the life and legacy of the 37th President and First Lady Pat Nixon, and on activities of the Foundation at www.nixonfoundation.org. Reaching a global audience interested in President Nixon, the Foundation offers speaker webcasts and one-on-one interviews with noted officials who served in the Administration, as well as distinguished commentators and authors on today’s policy debates.
The Nixon Foundation has hosted 14 national policy conferences and high-level government meetings, and the current series of monthly Nixon Legacy Forums exploring RN’s initiatives in foreign and domestic policies. In 2008, the Chinese/American Trade Conference featured high-level meetings on international trade regulations between the U.S. and Chinese governments.
The Library is enriched by a guild of 160 trained volunteer docents who greet and help guide millions of children, adults, grandparents, tourists, and others throughout the museum and its beautifully landscaped grounds. The Docent Guild has volunteered over 600,000 service hours. In addition, the Guild conducts several community outreach programs:
Every year the Docent Scholarship Committee awards local high school seniors with college scholarships. In 24 years, more than 60 students have received over $60,000 in scholarships.
The Nixon Foundation Geography Program tests students on their knowledge of geography and docents present them with awards in annual ceremonies in the East Room. More than 30,000 students have participated in the award program’s 20 year history.
School tours are common educational opportunities which provide both local and non-local school children with an understanding of the life and times of President Nixon. In 24 years, over 120,000 students have participated in 2,400 school tours, averaging 6,000 students guided on 120 tours annually.
The Nixon Foundation built and has operated the Library and Birthplace for 17 years (1990-2007) without any taxpayer dollars. In 2007, the Foundation agreed to become part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) system of Presidential Libraries. As a result, a new 18,000 square foot storage facility was built and the Presidential papers, artifacts, and audiovisual materials were moved to Yorba Linda, so that the President’s birthplace, memorials, galleries, and records are all at one location.
The permanent museum exhibits include several galleries and theaters, which trace the early life, Congressional career, Vice Presidency, Presidency, and retirement years of Richard Nixon. Among the most popular of the exhibits are ten life-sized statues of world leaders who RN thought “made a difference.” The Pat Nixon gallery chronicles the First Lady’s life with several of her well-known White House gowns displayed.
The museum boasts three exact replicas of meaningful rooms to the President, including the Lincoln Sitting Room and East Room in the White House and former President Nixon’s New Jersey private study. Notable artifacts from President Nixon’s life and time in office include the 1969 Lehmann-Peterson Presidential Limousine; an authentic, 12-foot high piece of the Berlin Wall; and President Nixon’s former Marine One, the original Sikorsky VH-3A “Sea King” which flew the President on 181 missions.