HARRY S. TRUMAN PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY & MUSEUM
ABOUT THE PROJECT
We asked the staff of the nation’s first presidential library to tell us about their favorite artifacts. These stories were organized, then sent through an “improvement round” to bring further refinements to the table. This collaboration allowed us to approach the exhibit in greater depth, provide insight into the true character of the man and, allowing visitors to paint their own colorful portraits of Truman the man—and Truman the politician.
In 1984 EAI designed a traveling exhibit for the centennial celebration of President Truman’s birth. Using the Library’s collection and research material from all over the nation, this exhibit became the first comprehensive look at Truman’s life, and also developed a taxonomy of Truman’s life that Library staff and historians still use.
Drawing on the success of the traveling exhibit, in 2002 EAI was asked to design a permanent exhibit focusing on the life, times, and presidency of the 33rd President. An important requirement was that the staff be able to change the content as needed. The project stands as a model of cooperation between the design team, staff archivists, and curators, resulting in an exhibit that weaves stories around the collections instead of presenting the collections as narrative filler. A dual storyline pairs historic narrative with Truman’s own words revealing Truman as both articulate and prescient. Visitors come away with an understanding and feel for both the man and the president.
I hope that our curiosity-provoking exploration of the stories, writings, and material culture of Harry Truman, gives visitors a sense of what a phenomenally perceptive and responsible president he was. — JERRY EISTERHOLD