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Archive for Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Exhibit probes presidency

June 28, 2005

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— From the inkwell Abraham Lincoln used for a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to Warren Harding's silk pajamas, a traveling exhibit chronicling the presidency is on view at the Missouri History Museum.

If you go

The Missouri History Museum is located in St. Louis' Forest Park. Admission to the presidency exhibit is $8 for adults; $7 for seniors, and $4 for students. Children 6 and under are free; and the exhibit is free to everyone on Tuesdays. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily and until 8 p.m. Tuesdays.

Visitors who haven't been to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., will have a chance for some of the National Museum of American History's famed artifacts to come to them. "The American President: A Glorious Burden" runs until Jan. 8 with more than 350 objects from the museum's collection.

The exhibit is set up according to themes, such as presidential campaigns, with items such as a dress printed with the word "Ike" all over it that Dwight Eisenhower supporters wore during the 1956 campaign.

Other topics include inaugurations, limits of presidential power, assassination and mourning, the presidency in popular imagination and life after the presidency. The exhibit contains everything from a gown worn by Jacqueline Kennedy at a reception for the president of Tunisia to a microphone used by Franklin D. Roosevelt during one of his fireside chat broadcasts.

The director of the Missouri Historical Society, Robert Archibald, said the exhibit showed how the American people expect extraordinary things of their presidents, although leaders are often picked from among ordinary people.

That's why Harding's red-and-black silk pajamas, included in the exhibit, likely will hold a certain fascination for visitors. "This guy put pajamas on, and had to go to bed like everybody else," Archibald noted.

And it's amazing, too, he said, to see items like the inkwell Lincoln used to write the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring an end to slavery.

Archibald noted how Lincoln, despite his humble beginnings, made decisions that forever changed history. "He rises way above himself. Somehow people are transformed by the office," he said.

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