The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum serves as a place for the public to conduct research and learn about the presidency of Harry Truman. Opened in 1957, was the first Presidential Library established following a 1955 law that promoted the creation of these institutions. In his final years, Truman personally worked to build the library and even trained employees and led tours. Today, the library helps bring the late President's life and legacy to light for modern scholars and everyday Americans through exhibits and a vast archival collection of documents from the Truman Administration.
During the Eisenhower
Administration in Washington, Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act of
1955. The new law allowed for the creation of privately-funded organizations
and institutions that would operate Presidential museums with federal support.
Prior to this law, President Roosevelt's library was established between 1940
and 1941. The 1955 law has supported the creation of fourteen libraries as of
Truman began planning for
his Library and Museum almost immediately after being sworn in as President,
well before the Federal Archives set up its system. The effort to fund and build the library was led by the Harry S. Truman Library Incorporated and supported by donations from more than 17,000 individuals and organizations. The groundbreaking
ceremony for the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum took place
on May 8, 1955, Truman’s 71st birthday. It opened to the public on
July 6, 1957. Truman dedicated much of his time and energy to the library and
museum until his death in 1972. He maintained an office (now preserved as an
exhibit) where he spent time writing his memoir, answering letters, giving
tours, and speaking to many students who visited the library. After his death,
he was buried within the library in the courtyard. His wife, daughter, and
son-in-law were later buried there as well.
The 70,000 square foot library
was originally designed by the Gentry and Voscamp, Architects, firm at a cost
of $1.75 million. Since then, the building has undergone a series of expansions
and renovations over the years. In 1967, the Library and Museum had an addition
added to the southern wing that was used for office space, storage, and exhibit
preparation. Again, in 1979, an east wing was added, expanding the libraries
total square footage to 100,000 square feet. Recently the Library
and Museum has begun an ambitious multi-million dollar renovation to completely
redesign the entire property. The plans, which include creating a walking trail
leading to Truman’s boyhood home, are expected to be completed in 2020.
The Truman Library is
situated upon a 13.2-acre portion of the twenty-two-acre Slover Memorial Park.
The structure is irregularly shaped and includes stack areas, staff offices,
conference and seminar rooms, an auditorium, a research room, and storage
areas. The research room, located near the north entrance, allows for the
public to access the manuscripts, oral histories, and other materials relevant
to the life of President Truman. Many of these items were transferred to the
library during the dedication ceremony, including about 10,000 books, gifts,
and mementos which Truman had received during his presidency. The Library's
main collection is the papers associated with Truman's White House, but there
are numerous other documents regarding other parts of his life.