Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

The Working White House


By Lin Parkin

September 11, 2013

Comments (1)

Presidential White HouseHave you seen the Oscar-tipped film The Butler?

The movie is getting a great deal of press attention with Hollywood buzzing about the moving performances by Oprah Winfrey, Forrest Whitaker, Cuba Gooding Jr., and the film's artful direction by Lee Daniels.

Barack Obama, the President of the United States, has even said the film drew tears to his eyes.

The film, loosely inspired by the real-life of Eugene Allen, follows an African-American who is an eyewitness to notable events of the 20th century during his 34-years serving as a White House butler.

The film ultimately sheds light on a dark part of US history, and in the process shows us many hidden treasures about the inner workings of the White House.

Voices.com member Debbie Irwin had a similar fascinating journey into the life and times of the people who worked behind the scenes in the East Wing of the White House.

Join VOX Daily today to learn more about Debbie's experience and the incredible history she learned while recording the project.

200 Years of Tradition and Memories at the White House

In 2008, Debbie Irwin narrated an audio tour for The Smithsonian Museum, which accompanied a multi-city, 4 year-long travelling exhibition, which was called The Working White House: 200 Years of Tradition and Memories.

During the course of her work Debbie discovered that not only were the butlers key to the inner workings of the White House, but so too were the housemaids, chefs, cooks, electricians, guards, florists, carpenters and plumbers. Spanning two centuries these workers and their unique stories were shared through oral histories, eyewitness accounts, documents, audio recordings, photographs and videos.

From an original staff of four to today, with a staff of 90 employees, the various themes explored include gender and race issues, the evolving nature of work at the White House and how Presidents and employees have historically interacted with each other.

The traditions of Presidents William Taft through George W. Bush were preserved through artifacts like menus, clothing, housekeeping implements and household treasures, which were also on display during the tour.

"Narrating the audio tour was an eye opening experience," Debbie told me. "We tend to think of the people in the White House as the President and the West Wing staff--those people who are in the news-- but, in reality, there are so many others whose names we don't know, who are responsible for the smooth running of this complex and historical home."

Have you ever worked on an eye opening historical project?

Tell us about it in the comments below.

All the best,

Related Topics: Cuba Gooding Jr., Debbie Irwin, Forrest Whitaker, Hollywood, Lee Daniels, Oprah Winfrey, The Butler, The Smithsonian Museum, United States, White House employees


    #truestory regarding those many other names we don't ever know about, but make the white house tick over from day to day. Until listening to Elaine Charles interviewing John Moeller, a chef who served three first families in the White House regarding his latest book "Dining at the White House"...until then I'd never really considered the presidency eating at all. Apparently Chelsea Clinton demanded that her Macaroni and cheese be the boxed easy-meal version. They're human :)

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