The presidential library and boyhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower is located within a 22-acre five-building campus in Abilene, Kansas. The library presents a world-class collection of historical records and papers, photographs, and films as well as over 70,000 artifacts pertaining to Eisenhower’s presidency and the history of the United States during the time in which he served, from 1953 through 1961. The presidential library is one of 13 under the management of the National Archives and Records Administration. The Eisenhower Museum and Boyhood Home teaches visitors the history of Eisenhower’s upbringing, his service in the United States Army, and the road to his presidency.
Visits to the library and museum begin with a short film at the visitor center, which provides guests with an overview of Eisenhower’s life and legacy. Over 30,000 square feet of museum gallery space host an array of artifacts and exhibits that illuminate both the public and private life of the president as well as the first lady, Mamie Eisenhower. The museum explores the social and cultural happenings of the 1950s and the partnership that the rise of television in particular had on America’s first “television president” as well as the office of the presidency itself. Details of Eisenhower’s presidency highlighted by the museum include the introduction of the first Civil Rights legislation since the U.S. Civil War, the enforcement of school integration in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the establishment of the Interstate Highway System.
Eisenhower’s boyhood home was occupied by the Eisenhower family from 1898 through Ida Eisenhower’s death in 1946. The six-room 19th century home is typical of the architecture of the era, and is furnished as it was in 1946, including exact reproductions of the home’s wallpaper. The campus includes the Place of Meditation, the final resting place of Dwight D. Eisenhower, his wife Mamie, and their first son, Doud Dwight. The chapel features stained glass handmade in Minnesota and chipped glass windows from Pennsylvania. The chapel’s exterior, as well as that of the library and museum, are built from Kansas limestone. In accordance with Eisenhower’s wishes, the Place of Meditation is open to the public and offers a quiet space where visitors are encouraged to reflect upon American ideals. A bronze statue of Eisenhower by the artist Robert Lee Dean, Jr. overlooks the campus in front of five stone pylons inscribed with a dedication to the Eisenhower family and their homestead.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States and served two terms, from 1953 to 1961. Having served the U.S. during World War II as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, he is the only 5-star general to have become president. The Eisenhower boyhood home has been open to the public since 1947, originally as a World War II Veterans Memorial. The library, visitor center, and museum were opened in the 1950s with public funds raised by the Eisenhower Foundation, a non-profit founded in 1945. The presidential library is one of only two to have been opened prior to the close of the president’s term. The museum was opened in 1952, prior to the election of Eisenhower as president, at the suggestion of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, who wished to honor Eisenhower with a museum. The foundation is currently in the process of raising funds for a complete overhaul of the museum. The redesign will incorporate new technologies, update current permanent exhibits, and incorporate new scholarship in its interpretation of historical events. The 1-year project is slated to begin in 2018.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Research areas of the presidential library are not open to the public, except by request to access the archives. Tours of the museum, boyhood home, and visitor center are available daily. Tours run from 30 minutes to over 2 hours in length, depending on the breadth of the campus one wishes to see. The suggested route begins at the visitor center, includes a guided tour of the boyhood home, and then continues with self-guided tours of the museum, temporary exhibits in the library lobby, and the Place of Meditation.
Past and Future Exhibits
Galleries at the museum include rotating exhibits. Current exhibits focus on the Chisholm Trail, a historical cattle-route from ranches in Texas to railheads in Kansas. Photographs, artifacts, and displays educate guests on the origins of phrases such as “the real McCoy” and “square meal” and highlight life in early Kansas at the time of Eisenhower’s birth.
200 Southeast Fourth Street, Abilene, KS 67410, Phone: 785-263-6700