In our family “Eisenhower” most often refers to the aircraft carrier where my husband spent six years in the Navy. We saw the ship this summer. So, it only seemed appropriate to take the boys to the place where the real Ike lived here in Kansas.Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Kansas boy who helped save the world. He was one of the greatest members of “The Greatest Generation” becoming Supreme Allied Commander during World War II and serving two terms as the 34th President of the United States.Located in Abilene, the Eisenhower Library and Museum is one of only 13 presidential libraries in the country. It is a world class site that includes a library, museum, family home and a meditation chapel where he is laid to rest.The 22-acre campus started with a donation by the Eisenhower family of the home and land shortly after Ike’s mother Ida died in 1946. The house where the president grew up can be toured for a small fee and still displays the original furnishing of the place Ike called home.The museum features five galleries covering Eisenhower’s life up to WWII, his involvement in WWII and the Presidential Years. There is also a section on First Lady Mamie Eisenhower and an area for temporary exhibits. The Presidential Gallery is my favorite, and very well done. It takes you back to the 1950s with computerized interactive displays, learning centers and a fallout shelter to explore.You will want to make time for a step inside the Presidential Library, even if your trip is not for research. The unique building is constructed of native Kansas limestone outside and lined with Italian marble inside. It currently holds a display featuring the “8 Wonders of Kansas,” a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation which distinguished the eight top “wonders” of the state, as well as wonders in a variety of categories. There is no charge for that exhibit.A great time to visit would be this spring. The museum will host a very special artifact – an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. It will only be in Abilene for two days, April 26 and 27. If you are able to make it, this display will be the only time the document can be viewed in Kansas. The museum plans extended hours on those days.The museum will also open a special exhibit in late May to mark the 50th anniversary of the completion of Eisenhower’s presidency. The temporary display examines the policies of his administration, and how they have affected our country since Eisenhower left office. It will continue until the end of 2011.The Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is actually one of those “8 Wonders of Kansas,” and it is with good reason. The complex is certainly worth a visit. If you are a history lover, plan on spending several hours to half-a-day at the facility. For a kid-friendly visit, even a short trip through the museum, grounds and home will keep them interested – and there is plenty of outside space to run around.We like Ike.Karen Ridder is a freelance writer living in Topeka. A former News Producer for KSNW-TV in Wichita, her work can also been seen in print publications including: Topeka Magazine, TK Magazine and the Topeka Capital-Journal. She has written for several national blogs and was recently recognized as one of the 2011 winners in the Annual Kansas Factual Story Contest. Karen has lived in Kansas for 15 years and married a native Wichitan. Together they are raising two little sunflower boys and a dog named George.
Posted on March 23, 2011 8:25PM