Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Exhibit Overview

The Truman Presidential Museum & Library hosts a major exhibition on the institution of the Presidency when "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden" opens on Saturday, October 12. Through video, audio and more than 350 objects, this exhibition takes the viewer on a journey to explore, and remember, the roles of the Presidency over the past 200 years.

Bronze clock showing FDR sailing the ship of state

"The appearance of 'The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden' continues our high-quality series of timely temporary exhibitions and enhances our status as a classroom for democracy," said Truman Museum & Library Director Michael Devine.

"We are offering an American historical experience like no other in the Kansas City area in 2002-2003, with 'The American Presidency' exhibition, our new permanent exhibition, 'Harry S. Truman: The Presidential Years' and an outstanding series of programs, partnerships and events."

Cheered and jeered. Praised and roasted. Admired and ridiculed. The President of the United States has been at the focal point of American history - from George Washington to George W. Bush. "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden" draws from the vast Smithsonian collection of American history to tell the story of the 42 men who have sat in this nation's highest office.

This exhibition features themed sections such as "Presidential Campaigns," "Creating the Presidency," "Presidential Roles" and "Assassination and Mourning." "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden" is cause for national celebration at a time when Americans are drawing strength from their history. This exhibition allows visitors the opportunity to understand and take pride in the history of the great American presidency. Special teaching guides and family guides will be available to classes and families viewing "The American Presidency."

Life Preserver from John F. Kennedy's presidential yacht, the Honey Fitz.

The exhibition is a full-scale traveling version of the permanently installed exhibition of the same title at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. The exhibition contains five audio-visual presentations and two interactive experiences.

The key storytellers, however, are the more than 350 artifacts on view in "The American Presidency," most drawn from the Smithsonian's holdings of more than 3 million objects.

Among the exhibition's highlights are:

  • a dispatch case used by George Washington in the revolutionary war
  • the brass inkwell used by Abraham Lincoln while writing the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation
  • top hat and overcoat worn by Grover Cleveland at his First Inauguration on March 4, 1885
  • a CBS microphone used by Franklin D. Roosevelt during his "fireside chats"
  • a formal gown worn by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy
  • the gavel used during Bill Clinton's impeachment trial

The exhibition was created by the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The national tour has been made possible by the United States Congress, Guenther and Siewchin Yong Sommer, Kenneth E. Behring, the Smithsonian National Board, and The History Channel. Local sponsors are UMB Bank and the Truman Library Institute.

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