Even though we’ve finished writing our book, can we still deduct the cost of visiting presidential museums from our taxes? There’s only one way to find out!
The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum
Adults: $8 | Children (age 6-15): $3 | Children (5 and under): Free
Kate: I have never been more sleepy than on the day we visited the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, MO.
JD: Same. Sometimes, I get an idea in the middle of the night and write it down, but in the morning it makes no sense. That is what my notes from this visit are like. “How does this lettering get eroded.” “Black out parts of a love letter.” OK, JD, whatever you say!
Kate: My only notes are “OMG I am so tired,” and “Hello George F. Kennan! What a fox!”
JD: I don’t actually remember why we were so sleepy.
Kate: I assume that we were too excited to sleep. (Excited for Harry S. Truman.)
JD: On an unrelated note, did you notice how the Truman museum is slightly less expensive than the Gerald Ford museum, but slightly more expensive than the Jimmy Carter museum? What I’m getting at is that I think these presidential museums might be engaged in a behind-the-scenes pricing war.
Kate: You are encouraged to begin your visit to the Harry S. Truman museum by watching a short movie about Harry S. Truman.
JD: Which is kind of predictable. I’d love it if one of these presidential museums began with “Let us tell you about a REAL president: Rutherford B. Hayes. Check out Hayes!”
Kate: I guess the Rutherford B. Hayes museum might begin that way.
JD: The Rutherford B. Hayes museum should begin with an extended apology.
Kate: I know I said I was really tired, but the movie showed a photo of Truman as a young WWI artillery officer, and I swear to you that I saw him wink.
JD: Maybe it was a ghost! A presidential museum could really get a leg up on the competition by spreading the rumor that it is haunted by the president’s ghost. I like the Truman museum, so let’s help them out by starting that rumor now. The Truman Presidential Museum is haunted by Truman’s ghost, and he will wink at you.
Kate: So, the movie tells the story of Truman’s life right up until the moment he becomes president. Then the theater doors open and you exit into the main exhibit, “Truman: The Presidential Years.”
JD: There’s no way to avoid it, unless you want to keep watching the movie over and over again. (This is not what I wanted.)
Kate: As it turns out, Truman had a very eventful presidency! You’ve barely gone fifteen feet before he’s dropping atomic bombs on Japan. And you’re like, “Wait—what? Why?” And then you realize you must have zoned out during the part when World War II started.
JD: You have to pay attention, because the Truman museum keeps things moving at a good clip. There are no long, empty corridors to represent the time that Harry Truman was asleep.
Kate: There’s no time to get bored, unless you are a four- or six-year-old child.
JD: I loved the Cold War exhibit, because it was well-themed to feel like you were in a cold, hungry, bombed-out postwar Europe. It’s really the next best thing to being there! Also, I guess I miss the Cold War a little.
Kate: What I loved was the way the museum handled controversial topics. They just put out an empty notebook and a pen and encourage you to write your opinions there. Then, when the notebook is full, a docent hurls it into the Eternal Flame of Freedom, which is located in the courtyard. (I am just speculating about that last part. I do not actually know what kinds of things the docents hurl into the Eternal Flame of Freedom.)
JD: Truman’s grave is also in the courtyard, and his tombstone lists his various jobs, but it omits “haberdasher.” For the record, I do want “haberdasher” on mine. Kate, please consider this presidential museum review my last will and testament. I also want the tombstone to have a motion-activated speaker that does a ghostly “boooo-ooooo.” But the speaker has to be solar-powered, so that it lasts a long time. Or maybe powered by a few grains of plutonium, like a deep space probe. Take any savings left over after building the tombstone, convert it to cash, and burn it in my honor. And finally, I forbid you from remarrying because he’ll probably be a better husband than me, and I don’t want to be remembered as your second-best husband. Signed, JD.
The Gift Shop
Kate: I was blown away by the amount of Truman-specific merchandise carried by the Harry S. Truman museum gift shop.
JD: Your excitement was palpable.
Kate: We could tile our entire bathroom in “Dewey Defeats Truman” ceramic tiles. To say that I am strongly considering it would be an understatement.
JD: When our houseguests ask about it, we could say, “What? No, we’re not into Harry S. Truman. Why do you ask?”
Kate: I was also interested in an apron that said “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Because it’s true, I do want people to get out of my kitchen.
JD: I sensed that the museum has a lot of angst about the fact that people don’t know that Harry S. Truman coined this phrase. And I could help get the word out by wearing this apron around town.
Kate: Aprons are a great conversation starter.
JD: One of the bad things about writing a book is that whenever I visit a bookstore or gift shop, I feel compelled to check if they carry our book. And the Harry S. Truman museum gift shop did not! I mean, they have FOUR books by Margaret Truman, but none by us. Plus, they carry “The Wit and Wisdom of Harry S. Truman.” So they DO carry presidential humor books.
Kate: I flipped through that and it was actually pretty funny. If you’re interested in a humor book that focuses on the presidency, consider purchasing “The Wit and Wisdom of Harry S. Truman.”
JD: There is no cafe, but the bathroom honestly did smell like something I’d want to eat. The men’s bathroom smelled wonderful. I am not being sarcastic.
Kate: Was it the soap? Because you can eat soap. I just looked it up!
JD: Kate you are just trying to trick me into eating soap and I’m not falling for it again.
Kate: Instead of eating soap in the men’s bathroom, we ate in downtown Independence, at Dave’s Bakery, Deli, and Grill.
JD: It had a handwritten sign that said “We have gallons of milk for sale: Ask us!” and because I was so tired, at first I thought it said “We have gallons of milk for sale: Discuss!” And buying milk by the gallon at a diner is, in fact, something I would want to discuss.
Kate: I had a BLT, because that is the best sandwich.
Should I bring my kids?
Kate: There are a lot of fun things for kids to do at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum, but they are all concentrated in the basement. You probably aren’t supposed to leave your children in the basement while you explore the rest of the museum in peace, but there are no signs specifically prohibiting it.
JD: The highlight of the basement is definitely the “Make Your Own Campaign Button” station.
Kate: Honestly, a campaign button-making station is bound to be the highlight of any basement. That’s a free interior decorating tip from me to you.
JD: One of my cryptic, sleep-deprived notes is “Kids being too awful to visit beds section.” I guess I’m a little surprised to learn that the Truman Library has a “beds section,” although I’m certainly NOT surprised to learn that our kids were being awful. Kate, do you remember a beds section?
Kate: Maybe you meant the “Bess” section, as in Harry Truman’s wife, Bess?
JD: Ahh…I bet you’re right. Man, I guess we’ll never know what was in the Bess section! What would you have wanted to be in it, Kate? What, to you, would be the ideal Bess Section?
Kate: As with all first lady exhibits, I would like to look at a selection of dresses owned by Bess Truman, and then think about which of those dresses I would most like to own.
JD: I guess that would be more upbeat that a Rosalynn Carter-style exhibit about neglected tropical diseases.
What Would You Change?
Kate: I would add a hammock exhibit, with a bunch of hammocks in it.
JD: What about nap pods? Take a quick nap, then wake up refreshed, alert, and ready to cram your brain with facts about about Harry S. Truman.
Kate: Sure, that would be fine.
JD: Also, more of these presidential libraries should have a “småland,” like Ikea, where you can leave your kids in a ball pit for an hour. Is our government so broke that we can’t afford to put ball pits in presidential libraries? Call your senators, people.
JD: Kate and I first visited the Truman Library about 12 years ago. When we mentioned that to a docent, he proceeded to tell us everything that has changed in the interim. I was far too sleepy to follow any of it, but I definitely noticed that they have gotten stingy in the make-your-own-campaign-button department.
Kate: I know!!!! We were issued only two buttons, one for each of our children. Last time, we could make as many campaign buttons as we wanted. It was a button-making free-for-all.
JD: Another casualty of the presidential museum pricing wars.
Kate: I must have missed what the first casualty was.
JD: Truth, Kate. The first casualty, when war comes, is truth.
Read the rest of this series:
JD and Kate Visit the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum
JD and Kate Visit Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage
JD and Kate Visit the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum
J.D. and Kate Visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
JD and Kate Visit the John Tyler Presidential Museum and Swamp Lair