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Truman Library in Independence to close for $25 million renovation and expansion

Flythrough video shows $25 Million renovation and expansion at Truman Library in Independence

The Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri will close in July for a $25 million expansion and renovation. The museum is planning interactive exhibits focused on Truman’s life and presidency.
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The Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri will close in July for a $25 million expansion and renovation. The museum is planning interactive exhibits focused on Truman’s life and presidency.

The Truman Library is set to close for a year while a $25 million renovation and expansion project is carried out, the first of its kind since the museum was built in 1957.

The museum will increase its community events and relocate its educational offerings while it is closed from July 22 until late summer or early fall of 2020. The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum is located at 500 W. U.S. 24 in Independence.

Library officials said they have been planning the renovation for four years.

“We soon realized this was going to be much more than a refresh, this was going to be a major reinterpretation of really one of the seminal leaders of the 20th century,” Kurt Graham, library director, said.

Graham said the goal of the renovation is to enhance the visitor experience at the Truman Library to incorporate the expanding knowledge base on the impact of former president Harry Truman and give a holistic view of his life and presidency.

In its current state, Graham said, there isn’t a clear path or order to the exhibits.

“You’re gonna miss something, and even if you do everything you’re not going to do it in the right order. It’s a very choppy flow,” Graham said. “We sat down and said, ‘How can we improve this?’”

The library will completely redo the museum exhibits and build a three thousand square-foot addition that will move the front entrance and lobby to the east side of the building.

The renovated first floor of the building will hold interactive exhibits exploring Truman’s early life and career through his presidency. The lower floor, which currently holds exhibits on Truman’s early life, will be renovated to hold two temporary exhibit galleries.

The first floor exhibit on Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan will begin with the bomb’s safety plug, an artifact of the war, and end with a paper crane folded by Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died from leukemia after she was exposed to radiation in Hiroshima. The crane was given to the library and the Truman family by the Sasaki family.

“We not only keep the library alive and relevant and able to reach more and diverse and younger people but also our history evolves,” said Clifton Daniel, grandson of Harry Truman.

The galleries were designed with the help of Gallagher & Associates, a museum planning and design firm that has previously worked on the International Spy Museum and National World War II Museum.

The library has already raised $23 million of the $25 million needed for the project.

The renovations come alongside the 75th anniversary of Truman’s presidency as fewer people alive today can connect to Truman as anything more than a historical figure, Graham said.

When the library first opened, however, Truman walked there every day from his Independence home, according to Daniel.

“People often went by the Truman library and at some point they would ask one of the volunteers, somebody, if the president was on site,” Daniel said. “Not only would the person say yes he is, they’d also go get him.”

Daniel said Truman cared so much about the education and mission of his library that he took time to speak to patrons, and the renovation is an effort to continue that legacy.

Truman would also approve of the ways in which the renovation is expected to help the city of Independence, Daniel said.

Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said the city is planning a variety of infrastructure projects over the next year to prepare for the expected influx of visitors following the renovation.

The projects include a pedestrian walkway between the museum and Truman’s home.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.

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