Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum
Harry S. Truman Presidential
Library & Museum
INDEPENDENCE, MO | COMPLETED 2005
In 1984 Eisterhold Associates was commissioned by the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum to design a traveling exhibit for the centennial celebration of President Truman’s birth.
The 1984 exhibit was the first comprehensive look at Truman’s life. To develop it, we not only reviewed all known photos, films, and holdings in collections all over the U.S., we developed a taxonomy of Truman’s life that library staff still use today.
The exhibit was so well received that in 2002 the institution called on Eisterhold Associates to design a permanent exhibit.
Biography from Artifacts
Working with museum curators and archivists, we chose artifacts that illuminated Truman’s life through stories and the connections between them.
The result is an exhibit that allows visitors to wander through Truman’s home, learning who he was, their curiosity about his life engaged by everything around them.
Instead of creating a timeline illustrated with artifacts, we made selections from Truman’s extensive collection. Using these artifacts, we designed displays that allow visitors to paint their own colorful portraits of Truman the man—and Truman the politician.
Working with Curators & Staff
Due to our familiarity with the subject matter from designing the 1984 traveling exhibit. We had solid ideas on where we wanted the collection to lead us.
Even though we knew what we wanted out of the collection, we engaged Library staff, asking them to tell us about their favorite artifacts. For each section, we organized and visualized everyone’s input and assumptions, then worked through an “improvement round” that allowed everyone to bring any betterments to the table.
This collaboration allowed us to approach the exhibit differently and in greater depth that provides insight into the true character of the man.
Truman Quiz Game
To make the artifact-driven stories even more fun and approachable—especially for kids—we developed an interactive quiz game that lives at the exhibit’s center.
The Truman Quiz asks visitors questions that cover the full range of the exhibit. The questions challenge visitors to find answers to the quick questions on the exhibit walls.
The challenges encourage exploration—all of the answers can be found within the exhibit, in direct line of sight from the playing position. More often than not, visitors not only find the answer they’re looking for but stumble upon other fascinating Truman tidbits.
The exhibit works to keep active minds and fidgeting bodies happy and engaged by working with the museum’s education department to develop interactives like: reaching through a hole to touch an object from Truman’s childhood, guessing what the object is, and then opening a door to see if they are right.
Other Discovery Areas are embedded through the exhibit.
“Write to the President” encourages children to write and mail a letter to Truman. Dedicated activities such as with “Unlock the Secret to Harry’s Jobs” and “Dress Like Bess” are visitor favorites.