Harry Truman’s reimagined presidential library highlights recognition of Israel
INDEPENDENCE, Missouri (AP) – After nearly two years of renovations complicated by COVID-19 restrictions, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum are ready to welcome visitors again with a focus on how whose legacy of Truman resonates today.
The museum opens to the public on July 2, with times and visitor numbers initially restricted due to pandemic regulations.
Visitors will find a completely redesigned museum in its largest renovation since opening in 1957 in Truman’s hometown of Independence, Missouri, an eastern suburb of Kansas City. The nearly $ 30 million project includes a sparkling new entry; many more artifacts, photographs, videos and films; and exhibits that encourage visitors to touch and interact with the screens.
A solemn gallery showcases Truman’s first four months in office, some of the most landmark months in US history. Germany surrendered, the United States dropped nuclear bombs on Japan to end WWII, and world leaders at the Potsdam conference determined the makeup of the post-war world.
Almost everyone knows that Truman dropped the bombs, but his legacy formed over the next seven and a half years of his presidency, when he set out to win the peace and restore the world, the director said. from the museum, Kurt Graham.
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“If you focus solely on the bomb, you are missing the core of its legacy. My job is not to say he got it all right, but I think it’s important that people, especially young people, realize that Harry Truman had more influence on the world they have. inherited than most other American presidents, ”he said.
Graham said the museum, which closed in July 2019 for renovations, was demolished “to the bare posts”. People who remember the old building will recognize little except for a fresco by Thomas Hart Benton, a few artifacts and a recreation of the Truman Oval Office, he said. .
After starting in the new 3,000-square-foot Grandview Hall entrance, visitors first see Truman delivering a speech in 1945 when he was vice-president of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR died just 82 days after taking office, leaving the world wondering, “Who is this Missouri farmer taking over the free world?” Graham said.
The exhibitions attempt to answer this question. The first gallery shows Truman’s life in Missouri before he entered politics, from his childhood on a farm in his service during World War I, to his failed haberdashery and connections to the Kansas political machine boss. City, Thomas Pendergast.
The previous museum had showcased Truman’s politics and presidency and relegated his personal life in Missouri to the basement. Now her story is told in a more linear fashion.
“Now you can really walk through his childhood to the presidency and beyond,” said Kelly Anders, deputy director of the museum.
The gallery’s centerpiece on Truman’s first months in power shows a safety cap from the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki. Nearby is an exhibit of the more than 1,000 origami cranes symbolizing peace that were created by Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who died at the age of 12 from radiation poisoning. Her brother donated what is believed to be one of the last cranes she folded to the museum.
These types of artifacts explain why Truman is one of the most important presidents in US history, said AJ Baime, author of several non-fiction books, including “Dewey Defeats Truman” and “The Accidental. President”.
“This is why presidential libraries are so important,” said Baime, who researched the library and visited it during the renovations. “A lot of people aren’t going to open a 300-page book, but seeing these artifacts makes history come alive.”
The galleries highlight challenges such as the Red Fear, over the perceived Communist threat to the United States during the Cold War; the dismissal by Truman of General Douglas MacArthur after disagreements over the Korean War; desegregation of the military and promotion of civil rights; and recognition of the State of Israel.
Other exhibits include a White House beam before it was extensively updated during Truman’s tenure, humorous gifts he received, and the famous “The Buck Stops Here” sign he kept. on his desk in the Oval Office.
Due to the controversial decisions he made, Truman stepped down from the presidency in 1953 with a 32% approval rating, the lowest for a president in US history.
Over the following decades, however, the public and politicians from both major parties came to appreciate Truman’s legacy and often cite his example. Former President Lyndon Johnson and other prominent politicians visited the museum to sign the legislation. The museum showcases praise from current leaders with vastly different beliefs to underscore Truman’s continued relevance, Graham said.
As visitors make their way to the exit, they can stop in a courtyard where Truman, his wife Bess, their daughter and son-in-law are buried.
Most of the renovation of the museum was financed by private funds, and an additional $ 7 million was raised for endowments and programming.
Baime said he was initially skeptical about the need for a renovation of the museum, but the result convinced him. He calls it “an experience that can really open people’s eyes, minds and hearts.” There will be people who will remember these events and children who will see things to really inspire them to understand how our country has become what it is.