INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum closed on July 22, 2019, for extensive renovations, and its doors remained shut during the pandemic.
Now, it's ready to open to the public and share the 33rd President’s story. 41 Action News visited the library and museum for a behind-the-scenes look in Independence before doors re-open on Friday, July 2.
Upon entry to the main exhibit, visitors first get a glimpse at what President Truman encountered upon his swearing-in after the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“It would be foolish to pretend that President Truman possesses the qualities of leadership needed by the nation at the moment," a news-reel narration says at the display.
Such was the skepticism Harry S. Truman faced when he assumed the nation’s highest office in Washington, a long way from his humble beginnings in Missouri.
“He’s the last President not to go to college, he didn’t have a rich background, so he’s kind of that self made man, but he ends up as the most powerful man on the planet and making huge decisions," education director Mark Adams said.
Those decisions were shaped by Truman's service in World War I, and while he was running his Kansas City haberdashery business.
The museum then takes visitors through his political career, which included a tenure as a Jackson County judge. It then culminates in his 1945 swearing in, which wasn’t the smoothest of ceremonies.
“We have a Bess’ hat that she wore when Truman took the Oath of Office, and the Bible that Truman took the Oath on," Cassie Pikarsky, the library's director of strategic initiatives said. "They actually had to scurry around the White House to find a Bible."
That ceremony portended a chaotic start in office for Truman, as he guided the country through the conclusion of World War II and made the fateful decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan.
The exhibit then includes the 1948 campaign, made famous by the "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" headline that mistakenly reported the outcome.
Truman's second term is also highlighted by new interactive exhibits that include the Red Scare and Korean War. This new experience for visitors was made possible by an enormous fundraising campaign that stretched across multiple years for library leadership.
“We have raised $38.6 million and towards a new goal of $40 million," Alex Burden, the Truman Library Institute Executive Director said. "Almost 29,000 donors from across the country, every state in the Union."
All of that money flowed to a key fixture in Independence, Missouri.
“Working for four-and-a-half years to ensure that we delivered to the community a true community asset and I think when people get the chance to go through it they’ll see a very special place,"
Clyde Wendell, the library's chairman of the board of directors said.
It's place that the museum says can offer important lessons to every future visitor.
“It's a great time to be in the Truman business because you can't offend anybody," Kurt Graham, the library's director said. “We look, and sadly most often in vain for his equal on the political landscape in today's world, and I think that's why so many people from across the spectrum, really respect who he was and how he conducted himself.”
Tickets go on sale on Monday on the museum's website, and the museum will have a timed entry for visitors.