libraries seek tourists in theme-park era…Elvis to help
Andrea Almond Associated Press Published August 22, 2004 SIMI
is a challenge facing the nation's 11 presidential libraries--soon
to be 12 with the opening of Bill Clinton's this fall--as
they compete for visitors at a time when many tourists would
rather be riding a roller-coaster than sifting through presidential
archives. And the Clinton presidential library has factored
Elvis into its equation.
Ronald Reagan's death has led to a surge in visitors to his
presidential library, attendance at the nation's presidential
libraries during the past five years has declined about 13
percent. To reverse the trend, libraries are adding attractions,
turning to more-aggressive marketing tactics and leaning on
tourist attractions to promote themselves.
Reagan library is adding a jet that served as Air Force One
while Reagan was in office. The library also envisions tour
packages that could include stops at Disneyland and Sea World
along with a trip to the Reagan and Nixon libraries.
Presidential Library officials in Little Rock, Ark., plan
on marketing the site with area attractions such as Elvis
Presley's Graceland, two hours away in Memphis. Visitors also
will be able to see Clinton's collection of Elvis memorabilia.
"For all the libraries, tourism depends on how the institutions
are promoted," said Jay Hakes, director of the Jimmy Carter
Library in Atlanta. "Across the board, we need to be more
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library has not needed any intense
marketing efforts this summer. More than 110,000 visitors
have poured into the complex northwest of Los Angeles since
the facility reopened June 14 after a weeklong memorial to
the late president. That is more than half the attendance
that the most popular library--Lyndon Johnson's in Austin,
Texas--sees in an entire year.
Reagan library, which had had a 31 percent drop in visitors
until the former president's death, expects to log an unprecedented
400,000 visitors by the end of the year. The goal of the libraries
is the same: to keep the past fresh. Their strategies include
rotating exhibits, having speakers and educational series
and offering school tours.
William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park has placed
an emphasis on tourism. In addition to the Graceland marketing
and Clinton's Elvis keepsakes, the $165 million library there
will showcase an exhibit on the first family's White House
pets--cat Socks and dog Buddy.
on display will be Mickey Mantle's rookie baseball card, which
was a gift for the president. Presidential items will also
be on display, including an exhibit on his impeachment.