Located on the University of Texas of the Permian Basin campus, the Presidential Museum and Leadership Library is one of the premier repositories and history museums in the state. The museum includes exhibits on each of the presidents, including official portraits, documents, collectibles, and campaign memorabilia. Visitors to this museum can enjoy an immersive and hands-on experience that examines the history of the United States through the lens of the presidency.
The present museum and library began operations in this facility in 2003, but the Presidential Museum and Leadership Library dates back to 1963, and was created in response to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Over time, the museum has changed locations and acquired a massive permanent collection, which even includes the restored homes of George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush. In addition to learning about the presidents of the United States, visitors to the museum can also explore political cartoons, defeated presidential candidates, and even an exhibit showcasing Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America.
History of the Presidential Museum and Leadership Library
Shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963, a Presidential Room was conceived and placed in the Ector County Library in downtown Odessa. After extensive curation and planning, the Presidential Museum was finally opened to the public in 1965. Within a 3,000-square-foot area in the Ector Library basement, the Presidential Room maintained a permanent collection of thousands of portraits, documents, campaign memorabilia, political cartoons, and even a collection of Dishong miniature dolls representing the various First Ladies who served in office.
With a goal to rekindle national spirit and educate western Texas citizens about the men and women who shaped (and continue to shape) the nation, the Presidential Museum and Leadership Library endured and continued building on its collection throughout the 1980s and ‘90s. During this time, the Library of the Presidents gathered and organized over 4,500 volumes, journals, newspapers, periodicals, and other historic materials related to the presidency.
Although the Presidential Museum and Leadership Library caters to a variety of traveling exhibits, lecture series, and much more, visitors from all over the country come to this museum and library to explore its profound and immersive permanent collections. Students at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (among other universities in Texas) typically utilize the museum and library for research endeavors as well as finding primary and secondary sources on political, history, and social studies subjects.
One of the more popular exhibits at the museum that draws thousands of visitors every year is the “We Shall Overcome” exhibit, which illuminates the actions taken by President Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The “Presidential Hopefuls” exhibit educates visitors about the wide variety of politicians who ran for the presidency but ultimately failed. Visitors can also discover an accurate, scaled-down replica of the White House. The two Bush homes at the museum serve as educational resources as opposed to museum attractions, and they also showcase the relationship that the 41st and 43rd presidents had with the Midland and Odessa areas.1