We drove from Austin to Texas A&M University campus in College Station to visit the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. So you might be wondering which President George Bush is connected with this library it is George H.W. Bush or Bush 41. (Bush 43’s Library goes by the name of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
When we entered the Library we first stopped to view the special exhibit on the human genome. We did not really understand why there was a genome exhibit at the Presidential Library, but later in the library tour we learned that President Bush signed the appropriations bill for the Human Genome Project. The exhibit was very well done and had a lot of activities for children.
After a brief visit to the genome exhibit we started our exploration of the permanent exhibits of the museum. Like the other museums it tells the story of the life of the President. Prior to being President, George Bush was in the air force, moved his young family to Texas, was a Congressman, was the UN ambassador, was chairman of the Republican Party, was ambassador to China, head of the CIA and Vice President. The library was laid out excellently as a winding trail one could follow thru the life of George Bush. In addition to an excellent layout the theming for each section was great.
This library did not have a complete replica of the Oval Office. It had what I would estimate as a third to half of the office with a mural on the opposite wall that showed the rest of the office. This was the first office that you could walk into and right up to the desk. (There was an additional $5.00 charge to take pictures in the Oval Office). You can also sit behind the desk and as you can see Leslie really does not want to the President.
We really appreciate the volunteers that work at the various libraries; however one must not believe everything they say. The volunteer told us a little about the picture on the wall to the left of the desk. She said it was from an unknown artist and it is not clear why it is significant but it has hung in every modern president’s office. We went to see the Bush 43’s library and it was not hanging.
As we continued our tour we came upon the section devoted to Barbara Bush. One exhibit that caught my eye was Ked sneakers that she wore. The card talks about how George got 24 pairs from the president of the Keds and gave them to Barbara and then how Barbra divided them between the White House, Camp David and Kennebunkport and would wear mismatched ones and loved to see the expressions on kids’ faces as they pointed to her mismatched shoes.
This area of the Library also had a couch where you could sit and watch a comedy video that included a Segway race that Barbra won. The video was very well done.
Something that we noticed as we toured the museum is the attention they paid to children. At each of the major areas along the way there were they little dog houses that had interesting questions for the younger visitors. Inside the house the answers were printed on shape of dog bones.
We really enjoyed our time in the George Bush Library and Museum and have to say it was the easiest to follow and had the best theming of any we have visited.
Our time in Austin was done and moved on to Dallas. While in Dallas we drove to the campus of Southern Methodist University to visit the newest of the Presidential Libraries. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum took place on April 25, 2013 (just a little less than a month before we visited).
After purchasing tickets to the Library you proceed into what is called Freedom Hall. Although all of the libraries continue to update their exhibits to make use of new technology, it was clear that this is the newest library. Freedom Hall is a 67 foot tall lobby that features a 360 degree high definition screen that shows a video of sights and people from across the United States a few times an hour. Some of the scenes in the video were beautiful; however they put the screen up so high it hard on the neck to watch the entire video.
In an outside courtyard off Freedom Hall there are statues of Bush 41 and 43. We immediately noted the size of the statues and believe that none of the other Presidential Libraries we visited to date had such large statutes. It was interesting to hear other visitors comment that of course “W” would have a huge statue of himself at his library.
We then started to explore the permanent exhibits of the Library. There were not any temporary exhibits at the Library most likely due to the fact that Library just opened. It was interesting to note that unlike the other Libraries, this one had very little of the Presidents early life prior to becoming President.
A large amount of space was devoted to September 11th and the resulting War on Terror. The exhibit included a chunk of the twisted steel from the World Trade Center, which we feel was a little out of place. It is appropriate for the attack to be covered as an important event that occurred during the administration but at times it felt a bit overdone.
Next up was the Oval Office, unlike Bush 41, the Oval Office was a complete experience, and unlike the other Libraries you could walk thru the office. It was nice to be able to walk thru the office but it did make it harder to get good photographs. I like the effect of the sunburst around the Presidential Seal in the carpet.
A unique attribute of this Oval Office was the addition of the Texas Rose Garden which you could exit into. I went out and was really surprised how small it was, so I had to look up the White House Rose Garden on the internet (how did we ever survive without smartphones). The White House Rose Garden was established in 1913 by First Lady Ellen Wilson on the site of colonial garden that was established by First Lady Edith Roosevelt (wife of Teddy). The garden is only 125 feet long and 60 feet wide (to me it looked larger in pictures). The modern configuration of the Rose Garden with the central grass area and plantings along the sides was done during the Kennedy administration.
One thing we have noticed in many (if not all) of the Oval Offices we have seen is a statue of a cowboy on a bucking bronco. We were able to get a good picture of it in W’s Oval Office. The statue is called Bronco Buster and was made in 1895 by American artist Frederic Remington. A cast of the statute was given to Theodore Roosevelt by his Rough Riders. That statue is now Sagamore National Historic Site. During the Carter administration an original cast was given as a gift and now resides in the Oval Office.
One feature of the Library we really enjoyed was the Decision Points game. This was an interactive exhibit that allowed visitors to play President in some of the controversial decisions that came up during W’s administration. The question was presented and then the players could call on various advisors to give opinions. As the game progressed the players would indicate their decisions. When the time was up the final decision was made from what each player decided. We participated in the decision to send in federal troops into New Orleans to assist in the restoration of order after Hurricane Katrina. We wanted to play with Decision Points more, but it was near the end and we were very hungry. We did not get any pictures of the actual Decision Points game, but here is part of the exhibit on the Hurricane.
We were disappointed that the Library did not include the humor section that a number of the other libraries have had. Although we liked some parts of the George W. Bush Library overall we feel it was not as enjoyable or informative as the others we have visited.