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National Park Service - Heritage, Policy & Architecture News     


National Park Service - Heritage, Policy & Architecture News
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White House Visitor Center Reopens after $12.6 Million Revitalization
Historic Preservation Blog from PreservationDirectory.com -
Contributed By: National Park Service

WASHINGTON – The National Park Service (NPS) and White House Historical Association (the Association) today hosted First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell as they announced the re-opening of the White House Visitor Center after two years of transformative renovations. The First Lady and Secretary Jewell joined NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, Association Chairman Frederick J. Ryan and President Stewart McLaurin in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark $12.6 million in energy-efficient, accessibility and historic renovations to the new White House Visitor Center, made possible through a generous public-private partnership. The White House Visitor Center, operated by the NPS, officially opens to the public at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, September 13, 2014.

The transformed space affords an outstanding stand-alone experience and provides an enhanced experience for visitors who take a self-guided White House tour. All new exhibits weave together the stories of the White House as a home, office, stage and ceremonial space, museum, and park. More than 90 White House artifacts, many of which have never been on public display, give a glimpse into life and work inside the Executive Mansion.

“The partnership between the National Park Service and the White House Historical Association has created a captivating new experience for all Americans and people from around the world," Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said. "I am proud of the thought and care that inspired the White House Visitor Center's world-class exhibits and accessibility – and encouraged by the modern technology that seeks to engage our country's next generation in the important and historic story of the Presidencies that have shaped our country.

”The Association’s contribution of $7.5 million to the project has enabled the National Park Service to create a modern, engaging, and fully accessible visitor experience.  The Association has pledged an additional $5 million endowment that will be used for ongoing care and updates to the center.

“The White House is one of our nation’s most important icons—this visitor center is dedicated to making it accessible to all, in new and exciting ways. Through the use of rare artifacts, new technologies and innovative displays, it will make the White House experience more meaningful for all who visit Washington,” White House Historical Association Chairman Ryan said.

The Association’s impressive contribution helped to create a space above and beyond what the NPS would have been able to do on its own. Through partnerships, the NPS is able to expand its programming and benefits to this and future generations.

“The National Park Service and White House Historical Association's collaborative effort to modernize the White House Visitor Center demonstrates the level of excellence we can achieve through a modern public-private partnership,” said NPS Director Jarvis. “As we approach the National Park Service’s Centennial in 2016, this center will help us to engage new audiences in the great stories we tell through some of our nation’s most iconic places."

Included in the nearly 16,000 square ft. remodeled space is a new retail store, run by the Association, which supports the upkeep of the visitor center and the Association’s larger educational mission.

“The White House Historical Association’s mission of enhancing the public’s understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the Executive Mansion is brought to life in the new White House Visitor Center. Visitors will experience an incredible interactive exhibit, rich with artifacts from the White House Collection, and a new signature film featuring interviews with members of first families across administrations. We believe this project is exemplary of what is possible through public-private partnerships,” said Stewart McLaurin, president of the Association.

The visitor center and new exhibits were designed with a strong focus on accessibility for all visitors, and the project team worked closely with the National Center on Accessibility to achieve a fully accessible experience. Exhibits provide numerous tactile exhibits for visitors who are blind or have low vision; all videos are open-captioned, and a comprehensive audio description of the exhibits and interactive elements will also be available.

The NPS and the Association hope to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Gold certification, the second-highest level awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. Sustainability efforts include exhibit design that uses energy efficient lighting and limits power usage by audio-visual systems, a new entrance vestibule that greatly reduces the temperature and humidity swings inside the center, and low-flow faucets and toilets, which will reduce potable water use by 32.5 percent.

The White House Visitor Center is free and open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Posted: September 10, 2014
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