Last fall, we went to Clinton Library in Little Rock. Unfortunately, we got there within a half hour of closing time. They let us in (for free) to take a quick look at the Oval Office and told us about the passport. Now, I am a bit of a finisher completer so give me a book and I want to fill it with stamps. So now, my goal is to see all 13 (14 if Obama’s opens) of the National Archives & Records Administration Presidential Libraries. And when possible, fill in with a few of the pre-NARA sites like President’s residences.
As we traveled across Kansas, I was able to start my quest with the Eisenhower Library and Museum which was right off the highway as we traveled to Kansas City. And then, a mere 160 miles away, the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, MO. Two stamps within a week.
The history included in these libraries is all that information that you learned in school, but have forgotten. Fun fact: Did you know that Camp David is named after Dwight’s grandson? And that same grandson married one of Nixon’s daughters? Or that Truman worked at a corner fountain called Clinton’s?
A little history lesson – Roosevelt was the first president to donate his papers and land to house his museum. Truman, however, passed the Presidential Libraries Act which established a system of privately erected, but federally maintained libraries. Interestingly, until 1978, the belief was that all records from the President and his staff were personal and could be kept after leaving the office. With the Presidential Records Act in 1978, all papers become property of the government.
Truman’s library is in Independence, Missouri where he grew up and lived after his presidency. Their home is about a quarter mile from his library/museum and he walked there daily to work in his on-site office. Truman was very active in the museum, often answering the phone, selling tickets, and speaking to student groups. The library covers the end of WWII, the beginning of the Cold War and Korean War. After reviewing the exhibit on life after the war, I had a lot of questions for my mom.
Eisenhower’s museum in Abilene, KS was under renovation, but the library had a great exhibit covering his early life, military career and Presidency. He certainly seemed like a personable, nice guy, well-liked by most. The site of his museum and library includes his boyhood home, a gift shop, and a chapel where he and Mamie are buried with their toddler son. We toured the small home where he and his six brothers were raised. It stands in the same place as when he lived there, not far from the railroad.
From our quick view of the Clinton museum, I can already see that it will be interesting to observe the evolution of these libraries as the newer ones incorporate technology and newer styles of exhibits.
We should get to many of them this year as so many are on the east coast. And perhaps now, I will finally go see the Bush Library in Dallas. Anyone already seen them all? Which were your favorite?