A look behind the scenes at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum

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SIMI VALLEY, CA (KTVI) - In Simi Valley, California sits this large collection of items that tell the story of Ronald Wilson Reagan`s life and times.

'Well the oval office, this particular example is precisely the dimensions of the oval office in Washington D.C.,' says Randle C. W. Swan - Supervisory Curator, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum.

'That was very important to the president and so he made sure that it met those specifications.  In fact, they had to modify the building plan and actually lower the floor to accommodate his wishes that the oval office be exactly as it was in Washington D.C.'

There`s a lot of the District of Columbia in California at this 300 acre location.

'The total count at the end with 100% inventory was 62, 317,' says Dr. Jennifer Torres, Register.  'We spent two years on the inventory, row by row, shelf by shelf and we looked at absolutely everything.  We have things from 160 different countries.  You name it we have one of it.  People wrote poems, they crocheted Afghans and painted portraits and they just mailed everything to the president at the White House.'

Long before this larger than life leader made his mark on the big screen Reagan learned how to get comfortable in the saddle as a member of the US Calvary.

Reagan himself had a love of riding saying, "the outside of a horse is good for the insides of a man.

'People know my father as president and they say, `Gosh he loved America, `' says Reagan.  'But it didn`t happen the day he was sworn in.  I can`t remember a day he didn`t love America.  So this is what he taught and instilled in me over 20 years of riding out to the ranch and chopping wood and riding horses.  I mean, I bought him his first chain saw and the oak trees have never forgiven me.'

Dutch, began on the radio dial as a sportscaster before becoming a star on the silver screen.

Years later he would become head of the Screen Actors Guild, the governor of California and eventually, the 40th president of the United States.

During his time in office Reagan pushed to have the Berlin Wall torn down.

You can watch the sunset in the west on this chunk of history.

Walk a little further and a fighter jet will greet you from Grenada.

Head inside and you`re cleared for landing and a walk through this former Air Force One.

'It was dissembled, wings were taken off, fuselage, vertical stabilizer landing gear and trucked out here on trucks, basically big dolly`s pulled by a semi,' says Rob Zucca, Exhibit Specialist.  'The aircraft is actually sitting on her landing gear.  When you walk through you can feel the suspension moving and so forth.'

Keep your eyes open for Jelly Belly`s everywhere, Reagan`s favorite candy.

'This is the lounge, the flying equivalent of the president`s cabinet room,' says Zucca on a walk through the plane.

On a clear day, you can see the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands off in the distance.

More than 400,000 people visit this site every year and it's easy to see why with more than 125,000 square feet of interactive exhibits and history under one mission style constructed campus.

If you take in every exhibit and see all the space has to offer, you'll wind up walking 2 1/2 miles.

You can catch your breath and lift a pint in the Ronald Reagan pub, brought across the Atlantic from Ireland.

Plan to spend a day or more to fully grasp the Gipper`s reach on America and the world at large.

This was the suit he was wearing on March 30th 1981 when an assassination attempt was made on his life.

It sits in the gallery along with the x-ray showing where john Hinckley`s bullet lodged in Reagan`s chest.

Twenty-five thousand students a year take in the 1983 setting in the discovery center with an oval office, military command center and press room.

'Education is really important to us,' says Alissa Whitely, Associate Director Education School Programs.  'Everything that we do is meant to inspire the next generation and really equip them with the tools they`ll need to be leaders in their school and their community.  When they come here they can come as young as 5th grade.  So, it`s really their first opportunity to get their feet wet in how does a leader make a decision?'

But it`s the newly opened situation room experience that is turning heads and opening minds.

'We`re here in the situation room at the Ronald Reagan Presidential library,' says Trey Alsup, Writer/Designer, Situation Room Experience and President, Wishcraft Simulations, Inc.  'Back in 2006 President George W. Bush ordered a complete renovation of the situation room in the White House.  So, they took it apart put it in crates and shipped it out.'

Reassembled in the Reagan complex, this live action role playing simulation is an experience like no other.

'Everything you see in the room was in the White House,' says Alsup.  'From the paneling to the microphones above to the lighting, the table.'

That`s the table chiefs of staff sat after the 911 attacks in 2001, determining what steps to take next for the nation.

'We`re helping to provide young people and others with skills such as collaboration, teamwork, analysis of large bodies of information and other valuable speaking skills, ' says Mira Cohen, Director Education Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

'We put them in the shoes of Secretary of State, spokesperson, White House physician, FBI and members of the media,' says Blackman.

'Then when you tell them this room has been used by nine presidents and at least six sitting presidents have sat at that table,' says Carina Morgan, Situation Room Experience Manager, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum.  'It`s just, the weight of the experience hits them.'

'But we also knew that we wanted technology in this simulation to foster communication between the kids face to face,' says Alsup.  'If the technology got in the way and kids were staring at their tablets instead of face to face then that`s a failure.  But it`s a pressure cooker.  We don`t make it easy on them.  They have to make decisions quickly with limited information and it`s hard.'

Throughout his political career, Reagan referred to America as a shining city upon a hill whose beacon of light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.

Opened in 1991, this hilltop campus between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara continues his life`s work into the 21st century and beyond.

It's here where Reagan is buried alongside his wife Nancy.

'President Reagan really felt like this was a hallowed space, it belongs to the people of the United States,' says Swan.  'The library and really the entire campus is 12 acres dedicated to showing other people ways to think.  It`s about education.  President Reagan was all about education and we at the library are still carrying on that mantra.'

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