Main Street Kansas: Abilene’s tribute to Eisenhower gets a makeover

Main Street Kansas

ABILENE, Kan. (KSNW) – The story of President Dwight D. Eisenhower began in Kansas. Now, 200,000 people a year visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home in the neighborhood where he grew up in Abilene.

Over the years, an entire campus has grown up around the family home. It recently reopened after a renovation project. The makeover includes interactive displays and the flexibility to rotate exhibits.

“It gives us the opportunity to be a little bit more flexible with the artifacts,” said Dawn Hammatt, the director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home. “We can rotate our artifacts more simply and that will give the visitors a different experience when they come.”

With upgrades in technology, visitors can now choose the time and place they want to learn more about the Kansas president.

“We have an interactive table which we use to explain Eisenhower’s early military career, the things that he learned, the mentors that he interacted with,” said Hammatt.

The new exhibits offer more insight into the general who became president.

“It’s fantastic,” said Sally Reck, a visitor from Iowa. “We enjoy going to different presidential libraries and museums across the country, and this one does not disappoint.”

The historic D-Day planning table had only one leaf displayed before the renovation. Now it has all the leaves plus 10 of the 12 chairs, so guests can get an understanding of what happened around the table.

It is a slice of American history that shaped our nation, and curators want everyone to learn more about Eisenhower and what shaped his march into history.

“Eisenhower had an incredible education, military education, and we believe that those things he learned prior to World War II really set him up to be the only person who was capable to be the supreme commander of the Allied forces,” said Hammatt.

“I want people to leave here knowing that Eisenhower was a Kansan in his heart and the things that he learned in Kansas set him up for his future career,” she said.

The exhibits also pay tribute to the strong woman at Eisenhower’s side, Mamie Eisenhower.

If you want to visit the campus, it’s at 200 SE 4th Street in Abilene. The hours are 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. from August through May. In June and July, the hours are 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. The only days it closes are Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The National Archives and Records Administration operates the facility.

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