A temporary Harry Truman exhibit, one that highlights the role the city played in his life and his presidency's far-reaching decisions, will be in a downtown Kansas City gallery for one week.
“Harry S. Truman: Kansas City's Commander in Chief,” is in The Box Gallery, in the first floor of the Commerce Bank Building at 1000 Walnut St., through Friday. The free exhibit, courtesy of the Truman Library Institute, includes reproductions of photographs and documents from the library's archives. It opened Sept. 6.
Cassie Pikarsky, director of strategic initiatives, said the institute had planned for a while to show the small exhibit but was able to do so shortly after the Truman Library closed for a year-plus-long renovation.
“It was an opportunity that presented itself, and we timed it so it would happen during the renovation,” Pikarsky said. “And he worked for Commerce Bank for a short time.”
Indeed, Truman's post-high school years included a couple years of work at Commerce Bank, before he went to Union National for more money doing the same vault work. That lasted a year before he joined his father working the family farm for several years before he served in World War I.
The iconic “Walking Truman” image taken on the Square leads visitors to the beginning of the self-guided walking tour – 10 sites in downtown Kansas City that Pikarsky said “highlight how Truman impacted the city and how the city impacted him.”
Among the sites:
• The Muehlebach Hotel, where Truman had an office during presidential years.
• Barney Allis Plaza, formerly the site of a convention hall where Truman and his father attended the 1900 Democratic National Convention.
• The unpretentious two-story building at 1908 Main St., that served as Tom Pendergast's headquarters.
• Liberty Memorial, for which citizens raised money shortly after World War I. Truman, an artillery captain in the war, was present at the impressive dedication ceremony.
The exhibit also includes a preview of the Truman Library renovations and a selfie station. Overall, Pikarsky said the institute hopes the exhibit serves as a “little sneak peak” to build excitement for when the library reopens next year.
“When we started talking about this opportunity, all parties involved wanted it to be as beneficial as it could for the library,” she said. “A lot of (the exhibit's) audience are people who work nearby and live nearby. It's a great time to expose new people to Truman and remind people that not only is he our hometown president, but historians continually rank him high among the greatest presidents.
With post-war economics, military desegregation, the Marshall Plan, the Cold War and the Korean War, the legacy of Truman's presidency still resonates decades later in many ways.
“It's hard to pick up a newspaper,” Pikarsky said, “and not find a headline that doesn't relate in some way to a decision he made.”