Learning Our Heritage

Monday, August 5, 2013

Can you recite the U.S. Presidents in order? I can’t. But I can, and do, enjoy learning about them. Many people don’t realize how much history they can absorb just by visiting the Presidential Libraries spread across the country.
When Roland and I went on vacation last month, we spent the majority of it in Kansas City, Missouri. What is there to do in Kansas City, you ask? More than we had time for in six days. The vacation was actually eleven days because we made some other stops to and from, but Kansas City was our main destination.
Okay, so we aren’t into beach vacations. Well, Roland might be, but I’m not. Since we both enjoy learning about history, many of our trips have that as the focus. This one was no exception.
Our first stop was West Branch, Iowa, where we visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum (pictured above). The library part of any Presidential Library is primarily a research facility, with that president’s papers as the backbone of a larger collection. These libraries are manna for biographers.
The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, like most, is also a museum, which is the part aimed at the general public. The exhibits show Herbert Hoover’s life and times and include many interesting tidbits. Did you know that Hoover met his wife while they were both geology students at Stanford University? In the late 1800s, that made Lou a very progressive woman.
Herbert Hoover’s birthplace is located in the same complex. The second picture shows the tiny house. Two small rooms for a family of five. 

The second day we were in Kansas City, we visited the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri. The third picture is the building, and the fourth shows one of the exhibits: a reproduction of the Oval Office during Truman's tenure.

Here’s another interesting tidbit. Even though Harry Truman and Bess Wallace knew each other since they were children, they did not get married until they were in their 30s. Bess’s well-to-do parents did not want her to marry Harry because he was just a farmer without a college education, and he was also a poor businessman. Guess they couldn’t see that presidential job coming . . . .

The U.S. government runs Presidential Libraries and Museums for every former President from Herbert Hoover through George W. Bush. You can find their locations at this link: http://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/visit/. Some earlier Presidents also have Presidential Libraries and Museums run by private foundations. I’m aware of (and have visited) two: the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum located in Springfield, Illinois, and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum located in Staunton, Virginia.

If you want to teach your children about their American heritage or learn about your own, check out the Presidential Libraries.

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