Donal Blaney: Introducing the Margaret Thatcher Library & Museum
“A monument to her greatness”, proclaims The Sunday Telegraph in its lead story this morning, on Conservative Way Forward’s plans for the Margaret Thatcher Library & Museum.
The twin inspirations behind the Library & Museum are both in California. In 2002 I first visited Ronald Reagan’s beloved home in the mountains above Santa Barbara, Rancho del Cielo. Young America’s Foundation’s visionary President, Ron Robinson, had gambled and saved the Reagan Ranch for the nation in 1998. He then had the foresight to build and develop the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara itself – a “schoolhouse for Reaganism” that fuses teaching facilities, educational exhibits and artefacts to teach young people about the remarkable life and presidency of Ronald Reagan.
It was in 2007 that I first visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley, Reagan’s last resting place and a location with sweeping views across the valley to the West. Through a range of innovative exhibits, the Reagan Library tells the story of President Reagan’s life in an electrifying way. Both facilities ensure that you get to understand Reagan the Man as well as Reagan the President.
I was and remain mindful that this project will be the first of its kind in Britain, but that should not phase any of us. Margaret Thatcher herself, after all, was the first of her kind too. And while honouring the legacies of Prime Ministers does not happen with the regularity of Americans’ honouring of Presidents, the lives of a number of British Prime Ministers have indeed been honoured publicly over the centuries.
The Margaret Thatcher Library & Museum was personally backed by Lady Thatcher as she fondly recalled the work done by Swinton College, the Conservative Party’s training college, before it closed in the 1970s. The project has been proudly endorsed by a number of her closest advisers and former colleagues including Cecil Parkinson, Norman Tebbit, Eric Pickles, Liam Fox, Patrick McLoughlin, David Jones, Howard Flight, Sir Gerald Howarth and Conor Burns.
The Library & Museum will contain gifted and loaned artefacts from the Thatcher era together with a state-of-the-art education centre and exhibit gallery. It will be the defining legacy project in her memory.
Its primary focus will be on scholars, students and the general public from Britain and around the world (with a particular focus on the United States, the Commonwealth and Central & Eastern Europe). A series of programmes, conferences, lectures and workshops will explore Lady Thatcher’s legacy from a variety of angles. Indeed this is critical for the success of the project as a whole.
The Margaret Thatcher Library & Museum will not be a saccharine whitewashing of history. Its credibility as a centre of learning will rightly depend on all aspects of her legacy being open to examination. We will welcome contributors, exhibits and visitors from among those who continue to oppose her achievements or who believe that she was not the saviour of our nation and, as David Cameron said, “the patriot Prime Minister”.
As we prepare to remember Lady Thatcher’s truly remarkable life and achievements this week, the announcement of the creation of the Margaret Thatcher Library & Museum will help to give her supporters a lasting legacy project around which to coalesce. As its Chief Executive, I very much hope you will give it your fullest support and I will look forward personally to welcoming you through its doors in due course.
She delivered. Now it’s our turn.