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Harry Truman Presidential Library and Museum continues prep for reopening

Posted at 7:11 AM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 08:11:56-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There will be no grand President’s Day celebration at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri, this holiday.

All presidential museums remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When federal leaders lift that restriction, visitors to Truman’s library and museum will see an entirely remodeled venue.

The facility has basically completed a nearly $30 million renovation which features a new entrance, layout and interactive exhibits.

“Even those of us who have worked on this from the very beginning are almost overwhelmed by what I would call the wow factor. I mean it surpasses my wildest dreams, in terms of what has been achieved here,” admitted Kurt Graham, the museum’s director.

He shared details of a new exhibit on the Berlin Airlift exclusively with 41 Action News.

Visitors will be able to place a puck on an interactive screen to learn how Truman’s foreign policy after World War II focused on rebuilding Europe and rebuilding relationships with wartime enemies.

“I think the fact that Germany and Japan are two of our closest allies today speaks volumes about the vision that Harry Truman had for how you put the world back together,” Graham explained. “On his watch, it came back together with those vanquished foes coming into the family of nations.”

The exhibit on the Berlin Airlift explains how the United States and other countries supplied food and resources to the people of Berlin while the Soviets tried to cut off access to the city.

The museum now features a video about a US pilot who sent candy to children of West Berlin and became known as the “Candy Bomber.”

Visitors will also notice a new exhibit highlighting Truman’s work on civil rights as president.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) narrates a video explaining how Truman, whose grandparents owned slaves, came to stand for civil rights. He was the first president to address the NAACP. But even as he left office, Truman said the U.S. had work to do in its push for equality.

“I think that's a great message for us to carry forward when we think about civil rights and equality of opportunity,” Graham pointed out. “We may pat ourselves on the back and say, ‘Look how far we've come.’ But we can also turn around and say, ‘Look how far we have to go.’ I think, in the spirit of Harry Truman, we can carry that forward with that attitude.”

Graham hopes to open the renovated museum in the late spring or summer. He says it all depends on the pandemic.