Are you as excited as we are for the release of our book Hottest Heads of State: The American Presidents, on January 30, 2018? Probably not. But that’s OK. Healthy, even.
The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum
Adults: $8 | Children (16 and under): Free
JD: For a while we were wandering around a big park, lost, looking for the museum. When we finally stumbled upon it, I said, “The Carter Library sneaks up on you…just like the real Jimmy Carter!” I was joking, but it turns out that this is 100% accurate, as we will discuss later in this review.
Kate: I said, “I bet Jimmy Carter comes here sometimes.” This also turned out to be 100% accurate.
JD: Part of the reason we just stumbled upon it is that it is sort of hidden in the woods, sunken down lower than the surrounding terrain and overgrown with kudzu. It reminded me of something from Lost.
Kate: I started to think about what I would want my presidential museum to look like, if my life takes an unexpected turn and I become president. The only thing I know for sure is that I want it to have a dark ride.
JD: Any presidential museum that has a dark ride will automatically get an amazing review from us. And it’s going to take us a while to get out to the west coast, so you have plenty of time to install one, Nixon Library. In fact, we’re going to go ahead and give you the idea now, so you can’t say it never occurred to you.
Kate: Right out of the gate I knew I liked this place, because the tickets are not expensive. Only $8 for adults and children under 16 are free! It’s like they’re admitting that children under the age of 16 will not enjoy themselves.
JD: They should just install some TVs because I’ve found that sitting kids in front of screens is a great way to help them have fun. But we weren’t there to tell the Carter Library how to run their museum—we were there to get our minds off the recent election. And, crack some nutty jokes about peanuts. Get it? Do you get it, Kate?
JD: Speaking of nutty, after we paid admission we were instructed to go to the theater to watch an introductory movie. We sat in that theater for like ten minutes before a museum employee poked her head in and told us that we were in the wrong theater. I feel like this is an easy mistake to make, because why does the Carter Library have more than one theater at the entrance?
Kate: I think we actually had to pass through one theater to get to the correct theater. The first theater is just there as a decoy, to weed out the guests who don’t deserve to learn about Jimmy Carter.
JD: After the movie, the first exhibit is where you learn about Carter’s proverbial childhood in Plains, Georgia. Specifically you learn that it is a lie, because he actually lived in Archery, Georgia. Archery! Why didn’t he talk about Archery instead of Plains? I mean, just try to write a bad presidential campaign slogan that includes the word “archery.”
Kate: I kind of rushed through Carter’s childhood because I was excited to get to the next room, which is made up to look like a submarine. Did you know Jimmy Carter was in the Navy? I think he did something with submarines.
JD: Carter has a good build for a submarine officer. Compact, wiry, toothy.
Kate: Then there was another exhibit about Rosalynn Carter. Really, Rosalynn Carter is all over the place. This museum would be a terrible spot for Jimmy Carter to try to pick up women.
JD: No offense to Rosalynn, but reading about her life was not as fun as pretending that our family was serving on a WWII submarine.
Kate: My favorite part of the museum is Carter’s post-presidency. I learned that one of his hobbies is woodworking, and there is a really stunning bench of his on display. Jimmy Carter, if you’re reading this right now, I will pay you to make me a bench!
JD: I hope he was the carpenter responsible for the replica Camp David cabin in the museum. The Carters do a lot of volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, so if Jimmy Carter ever comes to build you a house, you should ask him to make your house a replica of Camp David. Then, sell it!
Kate: At the end of the museum, you are rewarded with a super fun video game in which you travel (virtually!) around the world solving public health crises and monitoring elections. I solved problems in like half a dozen different developing countries, and it only took me 20 minutes. I said, “They should hook up this thing up for real!”
Kate: The cafe, cryptically named “Kitchen at Copenhill,” was the most crowded presidential museum cafe I have ever been to. At all of the other presidential museum cafes, it’s just been us and the cafe employees, who do not even bother to hide their confusion about why we’ve chosen to eat there.
JD: It is basically a cafeteria, where you go down the line and get one scoop of macaroni and cheese, one scoop of some other kind of macaroni and cheese, etc.
Kate: I think we need to should stop here and mention that when we walked into the cafe and got in line, the person in front of us was Jimmy Carter.
JD: He was easy to recognize, because we had just spent two hours in a museum about Jimmy Carter.
Kate: He still introduced himself to us though, which was disarming and adorable. He said “Hi, my name is Jimmy Carter.” Then he asked our kids what their names were.
JD: We should have told him our son’s name is “Jimmy Carter Dobson.” And our daughter’s! That might have kept him talking to us a little longer.
Kate: I was not able to speak to him at all, because as soon as I saw him I started sobbing uncontrollably, because this was two days after the 2016 presidential election. It felt like someone had thrown me a life preserver—a life preserver shaped like Jimmy Carter. But eventually I had to stop shaking his hand because he was growing visibly uncomfortable.
JD: Having met Jimmy Carter, we can share some key facts about him. Does he eat in the cafeteria at the Carter Library? Yes, he does. Does he drink soda? Yes he does. Does he radiate good health and energy? Yes, he does. Is it because he gets hot wax massages? MAYBE. More on that later.
Kate: After that I was too dazed and disoriented to figure out how the whole cafeteria system worked, so I just got a cup of soup. It was salty, like my tears.
JD: I got the mac and cheese. I don’t actually like mac and cheese, but I couldn’t really complain about the selection with Jimmy Carter standing there. In fact, maybe that’s why he was there! To stifle dissent.
The Gift Shop
JD: The gift shop feels like a missed opportunity to exploit the newfound admiration for Jimmy Carter that people will feel blossoming within themselves after they visit the museum. I was absolutely primed to drop $20 on a Jimmy Carter Christmas ornament, and instead I’m going to have to make my own Jimmy Carter ornament. It will be the photo of me with Jimmy Carter, but with Kate cropped out.
Kate: It was a really scattered selection with little obvious connection to Jimmy Carter. A board game based on Negro League baseball? A map of the Battle of Gettysburg? Three books about the CIA, including—bizarrely—a cookbook.
JD: And it’s not like they are forced to stock random things because they have a huge space to fill up. This is a very small gift shop. It really just occupies the corner you turn on your way to the wrong theater.
Kate: There is a lot of butterfly stuff, possibly because Rosalynn Carter likes butterflies. Maybe the idea is that this gift shop is where you go to go to pick out gifts for members of the Carter family? It’s too bad, because I saw a lot of stuff in the museum that I would have liked to buy. Like Jimmy Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize.
JD: The candle business is cutthroat and we are always engaging in competitive intelligence collection, so I definitely noticed that they were selling a candle. And, weirdly, it is a candle that advises you to light it and then rub the hot wax on your skin. I don’t even know what to make of that, but it feels too decadent for a guy like Carter. I think his skin care advice would be “hard work and clean living.”
Kate: That gives me a great idea for a line of skin care products inspired by Jimmy Carter! The starter pack will include a bar of soap and a plow.
Should I bring my kids?
Kate: Do not bring your kids to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Hire a babysitter and leave them at home. It will be much more romantic that way.
JD: The only thing I remember our kids enjoying is the interactive game where you pretend to be Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter flying around the world doing good deeds, and they only seemed to enjoy that because of the animated planes being projected on the floor.
Kate: Occasionally there would be a set of small doors built into the display that you could open to reveal a fun fact about Jimmy Carter. Our children can’t read very well, so they didn’t get a lot out of it. They did enjoy slamming the doors over and over again until they were reprimanded by a museum guard.
JD: Which seemed to work a lot better than when we reprimand them for stuff at home. Maybe I need to start wearing a uniform.
Kate: Those museum guards had it out for us. I wanted to tell them that if they thought this was bad, they should have seen the way our children behaved at Andrew Jackson’s museum.
What would you change?
JD: I would have liked to spend more time talking to Jimmy Carter. I know admission is only $8, but still, I only got to talk to Jimmy Carter for a minute or so.
Kate: A lot of future-presidents got to meet the president when they were kids, so now I’m a little worried one of our kids will become president, because they would both be terrible. I mean, terrible.
JD: I would also move the museum closer to St. Louis. I enjoyed it and I would go back, but not if they keep it in Atlanta.
Kate: I do wish that the museum were more child-friendly. I get that not every public space should have to cater to families with small children, but where else are children supposed to go to learn about Jimmy Carter? You don’t want your kids learning about Jimmy Carter on the streets.
JD: I had a terrifying nightmare the night before we went to the Carter Library about a ghost nanny, and I kind of want to talk about that as my final thought, but arguably it’s not too relevant.
Kate: I’d like to hear more about this ghost nanny!
JD: In my dream, there was a creepy ghost nanny, and she said “I have to go, I have another appointment.” And then I woke up, and it was the middle of the night…and the doorbell rang! And then I woke up for real and it was morning.
Kate: Are you sure you woke up then? What if you are still in the dream, and this is all part of your dream?
JD: I hope not, because I have gone to the bathroom a bunch of times since then.
Read the rest of this series:
JD and Kate Visit the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum
JD and Kate Visit the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum
JD and Kate Visit Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage
J.D. and Kate Visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
JD and Kate Visit the John Tyler Presidential Museum and Swamp Lair