NEH Chairman Bruce Cole Marks Fifth Anniversary of We the People Program at Truman Library & Museum
Bruce Cole, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), visited the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Mo., on Sept. 28 to mark the fifth anniversary of NEH’s We the People program. Chairman Cole participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new exhibit of President Truman’s working office at the Library, which will be supported by an NEH grant.
In his remarks at the Library, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Chairman Cole spoke about “a subject that was very close to Harry Truman’s heart: the importance of history and historical memory,” as well as “what the National Endowment for the Humanities is doing to promote greater understanding and appreciation of American history and principles” through the We the People program.
We the People was launched on Constitution Day in September 2002 at a Rose Garden ceremony with President Bush and Truman biographer David McCullough. The program seeks to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history. Since its inception, We the People has received over $51 million in support from the President and Congress. The NEH has used that support to provide over 1,300 We the People grants, which have gone to every state and territory in the Union.
“To understand the significance of history, to impart historical knowledge, we must recognize the value of real, material things—the objects and places that connect us to our past,” said Chairman Cole in his remarks. “These make history not just the stuff of dry textbooks, but a living thing that inspires us, challenges us, and strengthens us.”
With this in mind, the NEH, in cooperation with the National Park Service, awarded the Truman Library and Museum a “Save America’s Treasures” grant of $125,000 to help preserve the irreplaceable materials of President Truman’s working office.
From the time the Truman Library opened in 1957, President Truman used the office almost daily to work on his memoirs and correspondence, meet with other Presidents and world leaders, and oversee the day-to-day activities of his Library. Today the office appears just as it did when Truman died in 1972; the desk (which he also used in his private White House study) contains many of his cherished mementoes, and the walls are lined with some 500 books that shaped his thinking.
Currently, visitors to the Truman Library can view the working office only from a window in the Library’s courtyard—yet it remains one of the Library’s most popular attractions. The NEH grant will enable conservators and the Truman Library staff to assess the condition of the objects, furniture, and books in Truman’s office, and to repair damage and perform other conservation treatment to stabilize and preserve the office’s contents. The preservation and construction of the new “Truman’s Working Office” exhibit will be completed in 2009. “Seeing this office and its contents will give visitors an unforgettable sense of the extraordinary man who worked here,” said Chairman Cole.
Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities is available on the Internet at www.neh.gov. Additional information about the We the People program is available at www.wethepeople.gov.