Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

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Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is part of the Presidential Libraries System of the National Archives and Records Administration, a federal agency. Unlike most other presidential libraries and museums, Ford's are two geographically separate buildings. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Presidential Museum are located about 130 miles (210 km) apart. The Presidential Library is located at 1000 Beal Avenue on the north campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where Ford was a student and football player. The Presidential Museum however, is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the intersection of Pearl and Scribner Streets at 303 Pearl Street NW, near the Grand Valley State University Pew Campus in Grand Rapids, on the banks of the Grand River. Despite the separation, the library and museum are a single institution sharing one director.

Gerald Ford
Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. (born Leslie Lynch King, Jr.) was born on July 14, 1913. Ford served nearly 25 years as a Representative of Michigan's 5th congressional district, eight of them as the Republican Minority Leader. Serving from 1973 to 1974 as the 40th Vice President of the United States, Ford was the first person appointed to the vice-presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment. He then became President upon Richard Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974 and served until 1977 as the 38th President of the United States. Gerald Ford was the only President of the United States who was not elected by ballot election for either of his terms as President or Vice-President.

The Building and Dedication of the Museum
Funds for the construction of the museum were raised through the efforts of the Gerald Ford Commemorative Committee, the University of Michigan, the State of Michigan, Kent County, and the City of Grand Rapids. There were more than 14,000 individual donors. The 44,000-square-foot (4,100 m 2) sleek two-story triangular museum, which was built at a cost of $11 million including site preparation, was designed by Marvin DeWinter Associates. Also instrumental in the planning of the Museum was the Gerald R. Ford Commemorative Committee chaired by Jordan Sheperd. The Museum is the pivotal attraction in a 20-acre (81,000 m 2) park complex along the west bank of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids. Dedicated in September 1981 with a gala celebration attended by President and Mrs. Reagan, the Museum has a 300-foot (91 m) glass wall providing a panoramic view of the river and the skyline of Grand Rapids. A reflecting pool and fountain welcomes visitors at the front entrance and a broad pedestrian bridge links the Museum with downtown hotels and shops.

Inside the Museum
The main exhibition floor is devoted to President Ford's life and career and to the nature of the presidency. Candid photographs of Gerald Ford and his family also offer the visitor a view of the man at informal moments. A full-scale replica of the Oval Office, furnished as it was when Gerald Ford was president, is one of the highlights of the Museum. Special exhibits on the 1976 bicentennial and the role of Mrs. Ford are also popular. These permanent exhibits, which are the core of the Museum’s program, enable visitors to travel by video with President Ford and Secretary Kissinger to various hot spots around the globe; take a holographic tour of the Ford White House; and experience a day in the Oval Office through a sound and light show. A Watergate gallery includes a six minute, multi-screen history beginning with the June 1972 break-in"plus the actual burglary tools on display. An interactive Cabinet Room allows visitors to take part in Presidential decision making. Visitors can see gifts presented by heads of state and other foreign dignitaries, as well as personal gifts to President Ford from the American people. An award-winning film, "A Time To Heal," is shown every hour in the Museum's auditorium. A section of the Berlin Wall stands in the museum's Meijer Lobby, donated by Frederik Meijer on its 10th anniversary and dedicated by President Ford on September 6, 1991. In addition to the permanent exhibits, a succession of temporary exhibits draws upon the rich holdings of the entire Presidential libraries system, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, and others. Museum staff organizes and hosts special events, everything from a 1940s fashion show to activities for school children. The Museum also holds naturalization ceremonies for new citizens and opens the grounds to the community festivities and fireworks on the Fourth of July.

The core exhibits were completely redesigned as part of a major building expansion completed in 1997. This has allowed for a more ambitious program of changing feature exhibits and events. Expanded funding from the Gerald R. Ford Foundation has been pivotal in these efforts.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum are sponsored by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to support historical exhibits, educational programs, conferences, research grants, and awards. Also as part of its mission, the foundation honors the principles and values demonstrated by Gerald Ford throughout his public service career. On their own, the Gerald R. Ford Museum has been active in sponsoring scholarly conferences and community activities, often in conjunction with other organizations such as The University of Michigan and the Domestic Policy Association. Much of the funding for these events comes from the Gerald R. Ford Foundation, a non-profit organization which also awards grants-in-aid of up to $2000 to researchers who use the Ford Library archival holdings, publishes a newsletter twice a year reporting on the activities of the Library and Museum, sponsors the William E. Simon Lectures in Public Affairs, and awards journalism prizes for excellence in reporting on the presidency and defense issues. The Museum has established a strong commitment to involvement in the community affairs of Grand Rapids. Annual programs at the Museum include the "Great Decisions Lecture Series" which brings in guest speakers on selected foreign policy topics and features audience discussion and the filling out of opinion ballots; an association with the Close Up Foundation, an organization promoting student awareness of public issues; sponsorship of Citizens Bee, a high school level program devoted to history and political affairs; and the American Political Film Series, the presentation of eight often controversial motion pictures each year, which have attracted audiences of up to 300 people. At Christmastime, area youth are invited to participate in the making of ornaments for the large tree in the Museum lobby. The Museum staff also conducts teacher in-service workshops for school districts in Western Michigan.

The Museum in the media
The Library was the site of the taping of a series of programs on "The Presidency and the Constitution" broadcast on public television in 1987, and of the gathering of representatives of 44 countries for an All-Democracies Conference in December 1988. Other conferences sponsored by the Library and Museum may have been more educational, but none has been more entertaining than the "Humor and the Presidency" conference held at the Museum in the fall of 1986. It brought together well-known comedians, columnists, politicians, press secretaries, and political cartoonists to explore all areas of the topic. Receiving heavy press coverage, including appearances by President Ford and Chevy Chase on the morning television news programs, the event was a huge success. The conference was taped for later broadcast on HBO.

Ford’s Funeral at the Museum
Following Ford's death on December 26, 2006, thousands of people paid tribute to the President on the grounds of the museum. A spontaneous memorial with candles, flags, flowers, and handwritten notes was set up at the Pearl Street entrance to the museum. During the night of January 2, 2007, through the morning of January 3, around 60,000 people viewed the casket as Ford lay in repose in the museum lobby. On January 3, Ford’s body was taken to Grace Episcopal Church in East Grand Rapids for a funeral service. During the service, eulogies were given by Former President Jimmy Carter, Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Historian Richard Norton Smith. Following the service, President Ford was interred on the grounds of his Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Permanent exhibits
  • Gerald Ford's America: Pop culture of the 1970s.
  • Young Jerry Ford: His formative years to inauguration as vice president.
  • Constitution in Crisis: The Watergate years.
  • At Work in the Oval Office: A recreation of the Oval Office during Ford's years as President of the United States.
  • Leadership in Diplomacy: Ford's foreign trips with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
  • Ford Cabinet Room: A recreation of the Cabinet Room of the Ford Presidency. Videos highlight the pardon of Richard Nixon, the seizure of the SS Mayagüez, and the New York City financial crisis.

Temporary exhibits
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum offers visitors an ever-changing array of temporary exhibits. Along with hosting major traveling exhibits from public and private institutions, the museum also develops major temporary shows in-house. Some notable exhibits include:

All That Jazz
America in the 1920s (January 31 - June 13, 2004) The drama of one of the most significant decades in America’s history unfolded in this unique look at the Jazz Age. Few decades have been filled with so much yet ended so quickly as the 1920s. Businesses boomed, the stock market soared, and heroes were abundant. Before the 1920s ended in the worst stock market crash in history, America underwent a transformation from 19th century Victorian life and business to a 20th century dynamo, setting the standard for a transformed society and industrial giant. This special exhibit featured Richard Byrd’s polar flight suit, Man o' War’s saddle, a brick from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, a suit worn by Henry Ford, Ernest Hemingway’s passport, Charles Lindbergh’s flight goggles, handcuffs used by Harry Houdini, a painting by Zelda Fitzgerald, a costume worn by Al Jolson, Bill Tilden’s tennis racket, Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, Babe Ruth’s Yankees uniform, and much more.

Opening an Empire
U.S. Relations with China (October 15, 2004 - March 13, 2005) While vibrant and growing, China remained isolated from the world until only the last few centuries. This special exhibit allowed visitors to view the ancient art and culture of the world’s most populated nation as it rose from isolation into a leading global power. Opening an Empire explored China from its first emperor to Kublai Khan to the Boxer rebellion. China’s emergence into the 20th century and unique relations with the United States were also featured. Artifact highlights included: weapons used during the Boxer Rebellion, Chairman Mao items, the 1844 Treaty of Wangxia (the first treaty signed between China and the U.S.), early tea trade artifacts, Head of State Gifts to ten different U.S. Presidents, and artifacts from every Chinese Dynasty.

Theodore Roosevelt
A Singular Life (October 7, 2005 - March 5, 2006) Vibrant America at the dawn of the twentieth century was poised, yet hesitant, to step onto the world stage. A man embodying the energy and promise of the New World came at this opportune time. In eight years, he made America’s presence felt across the globe, looked out for the common man, fought injustice wherever he saw it, and took on the political bosses and industrialists. And, if his two heroes George Washington and Abraham Lincoln had defined the presidency, he modernized it to fit a changing world. Exhibit highlights included: the flag carried by the Rough Riders' as they charged San Juan Hill, the capstan from the USS Maine, a diary kept by Roosevelt during his youth, 1898 Treaty of Paris, President McKinley assassination items, Roosevelt’s naval cape worn during his presidency, “Big Medicine” ( Roosevelt’s famous safari hunting rifle), along with a lion, zebra, and rhino all collected by Roosevelt while on safari.

Slavery on Trial
The Long Road to Freedom (December 8, 2006 through April 29, 2007) From the earliest days of slavery in the then- Thirteen Colonies to the end of the Civil War, Slavery on Trial traced the history of this dreadful practice through the life of Dred Scott and his family. Over 100 artifacts and documents were displayed, including the earliest known Eli Whitney cotton gin, the noose used to hang John Brown, Frederick Douglass’ bill of sale, the Missouri Compromise, a first edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Daniel Webster’s personal effects, the actual Dred Scott Supreme Court Decision, a United States Colored Troops (USCT) regimental flag carried during the Civil War, a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln, Charles Sumner’s Senate chair, a slave made quilt, and chains used to shackle slaves.

Building Activity

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