YORBA LINDA, Calif. — A museum dedicated to Richard Nixon’s presidency is getting a makeover that will include interactive exhibits appealing to younger, tech-savvy visitors, officials said Monday.
The galleries at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in California’s Orange County are getting a $15 million upgrade to add more audio and video features and include interactive touchscreens common to most modern museum exhibits. Another $10 million will be spent to expand programming and educational activities.
The galleries have been little changed since the museum opened in 1990, except for an exhibit on the Watergate scandal that opened in 2011.
“It’s all panels and photos and content. It’s good stuff, but it is just not up to par with what museums are like nowadays,” said Joe Lopez, a spokesman for the Richard Nixon Foundation, a private organization that supports the library. More than half of the country’s current population didn’t live through Nixon’s presidency, Lopez noted.
Nixon was president from 1969-1974, when he resigned. He died in 1994.
The exhibits are scheduled to close on Sept. 28 and reopen in fall 2016.
Gregory Cumming, a spokesman for the presidential library and museum, could not immediately say how the content might change. He said the design is underway and the script for the exhibits has yet to be written.
For many years, the library dedicated to Nixon in Yorba Linda was privately run, but in 2007, became part of the National Archives and Records Administration, which operates 13 presidential libraries across the country.
The National Archives did not help design the current galleries but will be involved in writing the new ones. Records released in recent years related to the 37th president will also be included in the upgrade, Lopez said.
During his tenure at the library, former director Timothy Naftali said he not only curated the new Watergate exhibit but also made changes to displays that were overly partisan or “outrageously historically inaccurate,” including an account of the Kent State massacre.
He said more changes were still needed and the museum should also incorporate the trove of records declassified and oral histories produced since 1990.
“When you build a non-partisan museum, there is a certain expectation on the part of visitors that this is a non-partisan presentation of the facts,” said Naftali, who is now director of New York University’s Tamiment Library. He also said new generations of visitors want to learn new things about Nixon.
“You’re not going to be able to connect with a 14-year-old high school student in 2015 if you are asking the questions people asked in 1972,” Naftali said, “and the people who wrote those exhibits back in 1990 were the president’s inner circle.”
Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal involving a break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices.