The White House Visitor Center, operated by the National Park Service in conjunction with their cooperating associate, the White House Historical Association, first opened in 1995 in historic Baldrige Hall in the U.S. Department of Commerce building. The primary mission of the facility at the time was to distribute timed entry passes to the White House and to provide a brief historical oversight of the White House and President's Park to visitors prior to their visit. With the elimination of daily timed entry following the events of 9/11, the facility's mission evolved to primarily serve as an educational center for over 700,000 visitors per year. The intent is to provide a special and unique educational experience separate from visiting the White House that highlights the peaceful change of power in democratic government.
The design team's goal was to create opportunities for children and families to connect to the history of the White House and President's Park, highlighting the complex role of the White House as a home, office, museum, and stage for ceremony. Improvements to the visitor center include new interactive interpretive exhibits, a theater with introductory film, a new permanent museum gallery, a temporary exhibit area, a new retail shop, and visitor information facilities. In addition to revitalizing the space to improve the educational experience for visitors, design priorities included making the experience universally accessible for all visitors while incorporating sustainability principles embraced by the NPS.