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Archive for Friday, August 9, 2002

Dole Institute plans to be landmark

August 9, 2002

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Richard Norton Smith says he's skeptical of any public policy center that doesn't involve the public.

So when he arrived at Kansas University to direct the Dole Institute of Politics, he decided the building under construction on KU's West Campus needed some revisions.

The end result will be more exhibit space, more public meeting areas and fewer tables for researchers than the original plans.

The building is set for completion in April 2003 and dedication on Dole's 80th birthday, July 22, 2003. With limestone walls, giant pillars near the entrance, stained-glass windows and a large reflecting pool, Smith expects the building to be a landmark.

"The last thing we want to do is create a shrine," Smith said. "And the last thing that comes to mind when describing Bob Dole is pompous. It uses his life as a sort of clothesline to hang a much larger story."

Smith said he hoped the institute became a meeting place where Kansans could discuss political issues. That's why he eliminated a reading room, adding to the long corridor that stretches the entire length of the building.

That 3,400-square-foot space, named the Hansen Forum after the Logan-based Dane G. Hansen Foundation, which gave nearly $800,000 to the project, can seat up to 250 people. Smith hopes it will be the site of dinners, lectures and other meetings.

"We want the building in constant use," said Erik Nelson, the institute's associate director. "We're not creating a tourist attraction, but it will be a tourist attraction."

Smith also added to the number of exhibits planned. Now, the building will have 21 exhibit spaces, including five video screens. In addition to letters, photographs and campaign materials, exhibits will include Dole's military uniform and dog tags he was wearing in 1945 when he was shot in Germany.

The building will hold the more than 4,000 boxes of papers and other memorabilia from Dole's political career, which included stints in the U.S. House, U.S. Senate and runs for vice president and president.

Dole's papers will take up only about half the space allotted for storage in the building's basement, leaving Smith to recruit papers from other Kansas politicians.

Other building features include a research room, kitchen, conference room with many of Dole's plaques and honorary degrees and satellite uplink capability for TV stations.

The facility is being paid for with $3 million in state funds and about $7 million in private money.

Meanwhile, Smith and Nelson are working on programming for the fall and an oral history project on Kansas politics. Brian Lamb, CEO of C-SPAN, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17 in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union. The event is free, but tickets will be required. They'll be available to KU Card holders Sept. 1 and to the public Sept. 3 by calling 864-2787.

Free tickets for the Presidential Lecture Series, which features three prominent presidential historians, will be available at the same phone number Oct. 3 for KU Card holders and Oct. 5 for the public.

Speakers are Edmund Morris Nov. 3, Michael Beschloss Nov. 10 and David McCullough Nov. 17. Each lecture begins at 8 p.m. at the Lied Center.

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