Checking Out the Clinton Library with Director Terri Garner

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

Terri Garner, Director of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock

Terri Garner joined the National Archives & Records Administration in November 2007 as director of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.

Garner is finishing her doctorate in history at the University of Maine in Orono. She holds an M.A. in history from the University of Colorado and a B.A. in political science from Chatham College in Pittsburgh.

Before coming to the Clinton Library, Garner was executive director of the Bangor Museum & History Center in Maine. Garner previously worked at Sun Microsystems Inc., heading its Americas Command Center. As part of her job there she was responsible for customer and employee recovery in New York after 9/11. She also worked at Xerox Corp. for 13 years, serving as general manager and vice president of Xerox Business Services for the Rocky Mountain operation and the New Jersey operation.

Q: How many people have accessed the Clinton archives so far? What sort of people — historians, biographers, etc. — seek access?

A: Since we opened our research room in February 2005, we have had 1,225 in-person research visits. In addition, we have answered over 12,000 researcher and reference questions. These questions come to us via USPS mail, email, fax and the telephone. Anyone can conduct in-person research at the archives. We have students, teachers, professors, historians and journalists conducting research. You have to have a valid ID and fill out a short application form.

In addition, we have digitized 630,403 of our records that can be researched on our website from anywhere in the world. These are some of most requested documents: 17,000 POTUS daily schedules, 11,000 FLOTUS daily schedules, 6,000 Sonia Sotomayor papers, 172,000 Elena Kagan papers, and 424,403 documents related to the day-to-day operation of the Clinton administration.

How does the center choose its rotating exhibits?

The temporary exhibits are chosen through a collaborative process with the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Library staff. We look for subjects that are relevant to United States history, U.S. presidents or President Clinton. On a few occasions we have chosen exhibits that were compelling enough that we strayed from the norm, but some of the exhibits, like the Lego exhibit, were just too attractive to ignore.

What are your favorite items in the collection?

I have three. One is a straw horse sculpture from His Excellency Petr Kravchenko, minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. It is a sculptured horse made of natural plant fibers.

Another is a jewelry set that Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia gave to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. It consists of a necklace of platinum settings holding 91 diamonds and 61 rubies, a bracelet of platinum settings holding 58 diamonds and 40 rubies, a ring with one large ruby set in rose gold with six diamonds set in platinum, and earrings with one ruby surrounded by 21 diamonds, with 15 diamonds hanging from two chains suspended from each earring.

But my favorite is an oil painting titled “On the Way to the Bridge” by Peter Volay. It is a painting of Bill Clinton portraying “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” His entire crew is Hillary, with Socks riding near Hillary’s arm.

What’s been the biggest surprise during your five years as director of the Clinton Presidential Library?

Just how unknown the beauty and value of presidential libraries are to the majority of citizens of the United States. They hold the most interesting records of the presidency and the culture of the time he served. And we make some of them accessible much earlier than any other nation on the planet. It still amazes me how many people do not know that or appreciate it.

(For more Q&A with Garner, see this week's Whispers column.)



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