No word yet on Truman Library reopening

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net
The Examiner

The National Archives and Records Administration, which oversees the U.S. presidential libraries, has started to allow some of those sites to reopen on a limited basis, including the Dwight Eisenhower Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas.  

The Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence. closed since the end of July 2019 for a massive, $30 million renovation project, has not yet received that go-ahead. 

Late last summer, workers installed a new statue of Harry Truman outside the new main entrance of the Truman Presidential Library and Museum, which has been closed since July 2019 for renovations and then the pandemic.

As workers continue to put the finishing touches on new exhibits, Kurt Graham, the library’s executive director, says it probably will be “still a couple weeks” before the National Archives gives a thumbs up. 

The big reason, he said: “The COVID numbers are lower there in Kansas than here.” 

And when the Truman Library does reopen, Graham said, they won’t be able to throw the big party initially that they naturally would want to after being closed for about 22 months and running. 

“When they’re letting us open, it will be limited, which will be awkward,” he said. “We’ve got to think through the messaging.” 

The Eisenhower Library is reopening Thursday with limited hours – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays – and timed advance tickets. The Richard Nixon Presidential Library in the Los Angeles area also has reopened with similar limits, but the National Archives has not reopened any other presidential library, including the Herbert Hoover venue in West Branch, Iowa. 

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, reopened in late January, but it is not part of the National Archives system. 

Similar to the Truman Library, the Truman National Historic Site has not received word from the National Park Service on reopening the Truman Home on Delaware Street for tours, as well as the visitors center a few blocks away on the Independnece Square. Doug Richardson, the site’s chief of interpretation and visitor services, said he’s preparing a risk assessment based on current local statistics and CDC guidance and hopes to hear back from the Park Service later this week. 

“No one knows what the post-COVID normal will be,” Richardson said, “but I think I speak for everyone here in that we are so anxious to get back to what we do.” 

The Park Service has reopened the Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, though the Old Courthouse on the grounds is closed for planned renovations.