National Archives offers glimpse into Reagan presidency leading up to centennial birthday

Jeff Winkler Contributor
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The National Archives will begin featuring rare personal items from Ronald Reagan’s time in office this Friday. The rotating exhibit of presidential paraphernalia is being pulled out, polished and framed in anticipation of The Gipper’s 100th birthday next month.

The first exhibit is focused on Reagan’s foreign policy and features his famed “Evil Empire” speech that includes his hand written notes and corrections.

“We want people to come away with a sense of the man and why he was trying to do the things he was doing,” said Michael Duggan, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Supervisory Archivist. Duggan said the materials, particularly the documents, will help show the public how personally involved President Reagan was in shaping foreign policy, particularly with the USSR.

“What he did, did affect change,” said Duggan. “Now, it’s up to historians and the public to debate, ‘did he end the cold war?’ [or] ‘was it a series of events that ended the Cold War?’ But our job at the National Archives is to present the facts.”

Duggan said the exhibit was “non-partisan” and just a quick glance at conservatives’ favorite president.

“What’s on display is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of the thousands and thousands of pages that have been released over the years from the Reagan library,” said Duggan.

Apart from items on display, the Reagan library staff is also working on a related project that’s sure to interest serious Reagan aficionados: classified documents.

“We have approximately 8 million pages of national security classified records and of that, we’ve released probably 40 or 50 thousand,” said Duggan. “We’re undergoing part of the major declassification effort to rollout [those] records. It’s a very time-consuming processes.”

The entire collection of Reagan-related material, said Duggan, is comprised of about 45 million papers.