Plans to significantly expand the Truman Library in Independence have taken a step forward with aid from the state of Missouri.
State Sen. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, announced today that he’s gotten $3 million included in the state budget for the $25 million project expected to get under way in the coming months. Last week, the Truman Library Institute announced that it had raised $20 million toward its $25 million goal.
Today is the constitutional deadline for legislators in Jefferson City to approve the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The $30 billion budget goes to Gov. Mike Parson for approval, and the governor is expected to approve the museum expansion funding.
“I’ve been told he’s very excited about it,” Rizzo said today.
Rizzo had been pushing for $4 million for the library, with the hope of getting $2 million this year and $2 million next year. Instead, he found places in the budgets of the lieutenant governor and secretary of state for $3 million now – with a plan to go back for that last $1 million next year.
“This is obviously a huge step toward our goal,” said Independence Mayor Eileen Weir, who is on the board of the institute. She said Rizzo has worked hard to get Parson and key legislators to visit the library and support the funding.
Rizzo said that effort took months and that although Truman and the library are popular – “Everybody loves Harry Truman,” he said – he had to overcome the misconception that the federal government pays for presidential libraries. The National Archives and Records Administration runs presidential libraries, but the money to build or renovate them is almost entirely from private sources.
“Everybody expects the federal government to pay for this,” he said.
The Truman Library Institute’s board meets next week and could make a final decision to move forward with the renovation, which will close the library for months. Officials have talked of having the library reopened by April 12, 2020 – the 75th anniversary of the day Harry Truman became president – but they have not firmly committed to that, and their timeline has slipped a bit. Still, a press release from Rizzo’s office announcing the state funding referred to keeping things on track for opening by April 12.
What’s promised is a different museum experience, with more space to tell the 33rd president’s story. The building, which faces U.S. 24 in north-central Independence, would be extended to the southeast, and the main entrance would move from the south to the east.
The new entrance would have a more open, sunlit feel. There would be enhanced community space and even a bigger gift shop.
Mainly, expanding on the main floor achieves two big purposes. It puts the Truman story all on one floor, told in a more seamless fashion, as opposed to now, with his presidential years upstairs and his life and times downstairs. Also, the downstairs space becomes available for large traveling exhibits that the library currently can’t book.