It's official: No Truman Library this year

By Mike Genet

The Truman Library and Museum in Independence, which officials had hoped to reopen this fall after a massive renovation project, will remain closed through the rest of 2020 due to the nationwide rise in COVID-19 cases.

A statue of President Truman waving his hat in greeting stands outside the new entrance of the Truman Library.

The National Archives and Records Administration, which oversees 15 presidential libraries and museums, has closed all exhibits and research facilities to the public nationwide, with the exception of limited viewing hours at the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.

“It’s just trending in the wrong direction, and you can’t bring in people safely,” said Kurt Graham, the Truman Library’s executive director. “They’re applying this standard to every facility across the country, even if the pandemic isn’t as bad” as here.

The Truman Library closed late in the summer of 2019 for a $30 million renovation and expansion project. If not for COVID-19, Graham said, the library would have reopened by now, and if the pandemic had died down through the summer and fall, a soft opening could have been possible this year.

“Any construction delays we’ve had were COVID-related, because of supply-chain issues,” Graham said. “We don’t have a whole lot left to do (with exhibits), but we’re just taking that as it comes.”

Any reopening timeline is uncertain, and to have ribbon-cutting ceremony with some of the desired dignitaries would take time to put together, Graham said.

“You can’t get on those people’s schedules until you have a date,” he said, “and they don’t want to put themselves at risk.”

The Truman Library Institute, the library’s fundraising arm, has raised more than $31 million for the project and has continued to host online events through the pandemic, including this Saturday’s upcoming Bennett Forum on the Presidency with author/historian Jon Meacham and Washington Post columnist David von Drehle.