A Visitor's Guide to the William J. Clinton Presidential Center
The William J. Clinton Presidential Center is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday (closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day). Admission $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for youth; free for active U.S. military personnel and school groups with reservations.
Immediately upon entering the $165 million modern structure of paneled steel and glass you'll see the presidential limousine just off to the right, giving breathtaking perspective to just how mammoth the building's history-rich halls actually are.
But aside from the symbolic significance of immediately being welcomed by President Clinton's former ride, which seems less impressive without the usual swarm of Secret Service, the limo sets a formal tone for the goods on display atop the rising escalators, where you'll find a scale model of the White House's Cabinet Room.
Bridge to the 21st Century
Just past the Cabinet chamber exhibit, a narrow hall stretches directly toward the Arkansas River, reminding visitors of President Clinton's mantra of "building a bridge to the 21st century," a theme that plays heavily in the library's design. The rich bamboo flooring of the hall is split evenly down the middle by a stretch of 10-foot-high panels, each one representing one year of Clinton's presidency, complete with video clips and captions highlighting that year's events.
Behind each panel lies glass encasing written correspondence between Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as the Clintons’ exchanges with the many celebrities and dignitaries who embraced the 42nd president. The letters, which feature a get-well note from Clinton to Paul Newman, words of encouragement from Chevy Chase and cooking advice from Dom Deluise, are all openly displayed in their original forms.
Surrounding the timeline centerpiece are 14 themed alcoves, each with displays containing interactive screens and video footage. Themes range from science and technology to international conflicts and the economy.
The collection includes information on the scandals that plagued the Clinton presidency, with nods to Whitewater, Kenneth Starr and Monica Lewinsky. The scandal alcove, titled "The Fight for Power," mentions Lewinsky by name, buried inside sections called "A New Culture of Confrontation" and "Politics of Persecution."
The Oval Office
Atop another short ride up an escalator to the third floor, which allows views over the balcony into the atrium and the second-floor displays, is an Oval Office replica designed by Kaki Hockersmith of Little Rock. Down to the potted ivy adorning the mantle, the Oval Office's details give visitors a surreal idea of what a day inside the most important office on earth might feel like.
Beyond the Oval Office, the third-floor alcoves detail a more personal, playful and social side of the presidency. There is a glass-blown sculpture known as Crystal Tree of Light, a bicycle jersey given to Clinton from multiple Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, and hundreds of other gifts from dignitaries, citizens and celebrities including a pair of cowboy boots with the Presidential seal stitched onto them.
A display on the third floor sits on a small balcony overlooking the atrium, accentuated by the White House's former dining room table set with presidential china and silverware and mannequins adorned in the Clintons' formal wear.
Located in a 30-acre city park, the Center's plans include renovating the Rock Island Railroad Bridge, which crosses the Arkansas River, into a pedestrian bridge. A multiuse amphitheater, children’s playground and gardens featuring a grove of trees native to Arkansas are also in the works.
The Center offers rental space for formal and casual events with more than 10,000 SF available for dinners, receptions and educational lectures.
Enjoy a spectacular view of the Arkansas River while enjoying fine cuisineat Forty Two. Open for from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday for lunch and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday for brunch.
Established by the University of Arkansas, the Clinton School of Public Service is located in the Choctaw Station on the grounds of the center. The building was once a railroad passenger depot dating back to 1899.
The 13,500-SF building houses two classrooms, library, common room and staff facilities downstairs. Upstairs are the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation.
Architects and engineers of the Center employ measures to protect the largest presidential archive collection in existence. Nearly 10 miles of radiant tubing runs throughout the floors of the center to keep documents at a lukewarm temperature. The glass walls are layered with a protective coating to filter damaging UV rays, provide shading and prevent the inside temperature from rising. These efforts reduce energy use by 25 percent.
More than 84,000 archived documents can be accessed online.
From commemorative T-shirts and books to Socks and Buddy plush items for kids, the Clinton Museum Store is full of Clinton-inspired memorabilia. Online shopping and shipping are available through the store’s Web site ClintonMuseumStore.com. The store is open from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 2-5:30 p.m. Sunday.