Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home
Backstory and Context
Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower was born in 1890 in Denison, Texas, the third of seven children. A year later the Eisenhower family moved to Abilene, Kansas, where they had lived previously. Eisenhower would grow up there until he enrolled at West Point in 1911. After graduation he enlisted in the military and spent World War I overseeing a tank training center in Pennsylvania. Eisenhower rose through the ranks and had become a brigadier general by the time the United States entered World War II. In 1942 he was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force and directed the invasion of North Africa. Later in 1944 he commanded the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and the final defeat of the Axis powers in Western Europe. Following the war he served as governor of the U.S. Occupied Zone in Germany, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, and the first Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.
Eisenhower was hailed as a national hero in the United States for his military success, and in 1952 he was elected the 34th President. His eight-year presidency was defined by a series of milestones both foreign and domestic. He oversaw the ending of the Korean War; statehood for Alaska and Hawaii; enforced integration of schools after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision; and signed legislation establishing the Civil Rights Commission, the Interstate Highway System, and NASA. After the presidency Eisenhower spent his remaining years living in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He died in 1969 and was buried in Abilene.
Efforts to create a museum dedicated to Dwight Eisenhower began before he was even elected president. In 1945 admirers of the general established the Eisenhower Foundation to purchase his boyhood home in Abilene and build a museum next to it. Eisenhower’s mother, Ida, refused to sell the property. Following her death in 1946, Eisenhower and his brothers agreed to donate the home and its accompanying land to the foundation. The house was opened to the public in 1947, and a museum dedicated to Eisenhower and World War II was constructed and opened in 1954. The presidential library was opened in 1962; it was the fourth official presidential library and museum, following those built for Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman. The museum building underwent renovations and restoration in 1971.
The twenty-two acre Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home consists of five buildings. The Visitors Center contains a gift shop and a theater showing an informational short film. Eisenhower’s boyhood home is open for tours and is preserved to depict life during his childhood. A chapel known as the “Place of Meditation,” contains the graves of Eisenhower, his wife Mamie, and their firstborn son Doud. The presidential library, open to the public for research, contains hundreds of thousands of documents, images, and audiovisual materials on Eisenhower’s military and presidential careers. It also contains documents from over 400 of his relatives, friends, colleagues, and associates. The museum contains five galleries displaying thousands of artifacts from Eisenhower’s life and presidency, World War II, and the Cold War. In 2018 it was announced that the museum building will undergo a yearlong renovation project to update old exhibits and create new ones, incorporating interactive technology. While renovations occur, portions of the museum exhibits are on display in the library, which remains open along with the rest of the complex.
“About Us.” Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home. Accessed April 29, 2018. https://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/about_us.html
Biography. “Dwight D. Eisenhower – Mini Biography” (video). Posted September 16, 2013. Accessed April 29, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1FJXK4qy-k
“Dwight D. Eisenhower.” Biography.com. Accessed April 28, 2018. https://www.biography.com/people/dwight-d-eisenhower-9285482
IkeLibrary. “Behind the Scenes: Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum” (video). Posted November 2, 2010. Accessed April 29, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AizUq9IhGYE
Tanner, Beccy. “Abilene site celebrates Eisenhower’s life.” The Pantagraph. December 9, 2015. Accessed April 28, 2018. https://www.pantagraph.com/abilene-site-celebrates-eisenhower-s-life/article_62ed9d6f-c584-58c6-819c-247a55999bb2.html
Tanner, Beccy. “Eisenhower Foundation launches fundraising campaign to update Abilene exhibits. Wichita Eagle. August 23, 2015. Accessed April 28, 2018. https://www.kansas.com/news/state/article31964796.html
Tanner, Beccy. “She likes Ike. Now she’s changing his museum.” Wichita Eagle. July 5, 2017. Accessed April 28, 2018. https://www.kansas.com/news/state/article159648324.html
Zarrelli, Natalie. “Kansas Is Home to America’s Most Inspiring Presidential Library. History.com. August 11, 2017. Accessed April 28, 2018. https://www.history.com/news/kansas-is-home-to-americas-most-inspiring-presidential-library
Image 2: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/88/General_of_the_Army_Dwight_D._Eisenhower_1947.jpg
Image 3: https://www.history.com/news/kansas-is-home-to-americas-most-inspiring-presidential-library