Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Happiest Place In Simi Valley

Former Nixon library director Tim Naftali has put his seal of approval on a new exhibit about Walt Disney:
[T]here seems little doubt that the library exhibit will draw a new audience — always a priority for presidential museums, which live daily with the encroachment of time and the danger of irrelevancy. “These presidential museums belong to everybody and should have a wide appeal,” said...Naftali... “It shouldn’t just be for the presidential historians."
Richard Nixon knew the legendary Disney founder well, having helped open Disneyland along with his family. Of course the new exhibit's at the Reagan library, where it's nearly doubled attendance.

1 comment:

MK said...

The exhibit seems innocuous and is in line with the goal of drawing crowds. There is a history of putting up some similar exhibits on nongovernmental topics at the other federal Presidential Libraries and Museums.

I first learned about these issues in 1977 in classroom presentations during my first year as an archivist at the National Archives, which administers the Presidential Libraries. Daniel Reed, the then head of the old Office of Presidential Libraries, explained that the archives side of the libraries is for scholars but the museum side tends to be geared towards the general public.

The question then is how you mix the teaching and entertainment components as you try to draw visitors.

Disney himself was a complicated figure, as the biographies that I have read about him suggest! Judged in terms of management science, the Disney workplace often was tense more so than happy. I learned a lot about how the creative side and the production side worked in reading some recent books about Disney.