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New South Coast Exhibition Looks At History Of FBI Through Evidence From Cases Ranging From 1920's Gangsters to Unabomber

(KCLU photo)
The car in which notorious bank robbers "Bonnie and Clyde" died in during a shootout iwth law enforcement officers is one of the items on display in the new history of the FBI exhibition at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

11,000 square foot exhibition at Reagan Libary includes artifacts from Oklahoma City, and 9/11 attacks to Unabomber's manifesto

Crews are busy putting the finishing touches on what may be one of the most ambitious exhibitions ever at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

It’s a look at the history of the FBI, featuring artifacts on loan from more than three dozen museums and private collections.

Melissa Giller is Chief Marketing Officer for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. She says it includes everything from gangster Al Capone's pistol and death mask to the engines of one of the jets which crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11.

The 11,000 square foot exhibition is called “FBI: From Al Quaeda to Al Capone.” Giller walks us past a series of rooms which are reproductions of FBI offices, complete with the real typewriters and file cabinets.

One exhibit is focused on some notorious 1930’s gangsters who captured the imagination of the public at the time. It has the car being driven by bank robbers "Bonny and Clyde" when they died in a shootout with law enforcement officers. Bonnie Park and Clyde Barrow had gone on a two year rampage with their gang before they were cornered, and killed. The display also includes the shirt Barrow was wearing at the time of the shootout, and other items.

Another area focuses of DB Cooper, the skyjacker who in 1971 commandeered a jetliner, and was given $200,000 and four parachutes in exchange for the release of the plane's passengers. He jumped out of the plane somewhere over the Western U.S., and was never seen again. Some of the cash was later found in a forest outside of Reno, and remnants of that cash is on display.

Putting the exhibition together was a huge task, with memorabilia all over the country, and many museums reluctant to loan it. Randy Swan is the Supervisory Curator at the Reagan Library. He says they borrowed items from more than three dozen sources.

Swan says while the FBI has many positive stories, it also had so dark spots. He says the exhibition addresses issues like its longtime Director, J. Edgar Hoover, banning female FBI agents for a half century, from the 1920's until his death in the 1970's. He says they also look at issues like wiretaps and political surveillance.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a look at the investigation, and arrest of the infamous man known as the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Over two decades, he killed three people and injured nearly two dozen others in bombings because he believed technology was destroying the environment. Giller says they’ve recreated the Montana mountain cabin where Kaczynski lived. And, the Unabomber’s infamous manifesto is on public display.

Giller says scattered throughout the exhibition people will also be able to see interviews with FBI agents who worked on some of the agency’s biggest cases.

The exhibition also features a version of the FBI’s Wall of Honor, with the names and photos of the more than 80 FBI agents and staff members who died in the line of duty. “FBI: From Al Qaeda to Al Capone” opens July 2nd, and runs through January 9th.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.