Every day that most of the federal government is shut down is a day tourists cannot visit the Truman Library or Truman Home, two of the biggest attractions in Independence, both telling the story of the nation’s 33rd president.
“He is the number one reason people come here,” said Cori Day, the city’s tourism director.
The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum on U.S. 24 is open seven days a week and draws far more visitors than the Truman Home at Delaware Street and Truman Road just west of the Square. The home, at which visitors are given guided tours, has been open five days a week since March due to across-the-board cuts under the so-called budget sequestration.
Both the library and home have been closed since Oct. 1, when the federal government closed most offices and facilities.
Day said it’s hard to pin down exactly how many people and how many dollars are skipping Independence while the two main Truman sites are closed, but she has figures to shed some light on it.
In September 2012, 6,362 people visited the library, and in October, 4,967 visited. At the home, there were 1,846 visitors in September and 1,515 in October.
She estimates a person making a day trip to Independence for tourism spends something like $75.
“I would say that’s a conservative number,” she said.
Before the shutdown, officials said it was likely both facilities could reopen quickly once the government reopens.
There is one more shutdown twist. The Truman Library has permanent exhibits on Truman’s presidency and on his life and times. In addition, many special exhibits – usually two to four a year – draw visitors as well. The longest-running one this year is “Benton and Truman: Legends on the Missouri Border,” about the connections between the president and the famous painter, both from western Missouri. Benton painted the mural that dominates the lobby of the library.
Officials have said that exhibit, which opened in March, has drawn well. It’s set to end next Monday. It is unclear if the exhibit would somehow be extended once the government reopens or if the shutdown ends up trimming off the last two weeks of its run. The library is closed, and the phones are not being answered.