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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Abilene, KS: Great Man, Not So Great Library

Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum
200 SE 4th Street
Abilene, KS 67410
Phone: (785) 263-6700
Prices: $$$$

A bit disappointing - based on the fact that Ike was not just a president, but a hero, a man of great honor and integrity - there were far too many words and too few artifacts. The campus is unremarkable in its 1940s/1950s era architecture with stark rectangular yellow brick buildings surrounding the highlight of the grounds, the white, two-story Eisenhower home built in the late 1800s.

There are four buildings to visit: the visitor's center with gift shop and a 24-minute introductory video; the meditation chapel where he, Mamie, and there young son are entombed; the Presidential Library which is off-limits except for the lobby and a small exhibit upstairs on our WWII Allies; and the museum. There is also a large sculpture of Ike between the library and museum. It was a cool December day and the somewhat lengthy walk between buildings was quite chilly, I cannot imagine it being much fun during a blizzard or a sub-zero day in the middle of winter.

The Eisenhower home is small, so it does not take long to tour. The most impressive thing about it is the original furnishings, decor and photos, all as they were when Ike's mother died in the 1940s and when it became a museum. You can imagine the family siting around the front room or parlor, listening to the radio or talking about their day on the farm.

The meditation chapel is nothing special and you would never know a president and his wife were buried there if not for the small bronze plaques at the base of each marble slab covering the graves and the American flag at the head of Ike's tomb.

The walk to the library from the chapel takes 5 minutes across the quad. It has a modern feel with brick and glass as you enter the two-story lobby where you will find a guard, a large conference room, a life size photo of Ike and Mamie, a cross section of the famous Eisenhower tree cut down at Augusta National Golf Club (where Ike was a member) after a storm in the 1990's, and a bronze sculpture of Ike's head. On the second floor is an exhibit of the less known World War II Allies (e.g. Belgium, France, Poland, Ukraine) and, like the museum across the way, far too many story boards with lengthy descriptions to read and not enough historical pieces to admire.

The museum is much the same way, lots of reading and not much stuff. If you like to travel long distances to read, this is the place for you. There are some interesting items like the enigma machine mentioned in another review, Ike's mother's electric car, his Cadillac staff car from the war, some WWII era weapons, a tank, and a Jeep, Mamie's wardrobe from the White House years, and a 1950's living room as well as a replica of Eisenhower's office. Otherwise, there is a lot of reading, a photo or some other period piece (not necessarily directly related to Ike) here and there, and a couple short videos.

At $12 a pop, $9 for retired military/veterans and students (with ID), it is not the best value. Compared to the Truman library in Independence just 2 1/2 hours east on I-70, I found it a bit disappointing. Particularly because a fair portion of the museum is under construction with 2x4s laying around next to half built displays (with more words on them). If you are passing by Abilene on I-70 east or west between Denver and Kansas City and have an hour or two to spare, it is definitely worth a visit. If you have to make a special trip like we did, an hour and 45 minutes each way, I am not sure it would be worth it, particularly because Abilene is a town of 7,000 in the middle of nowhere with nothing else to do except watch the streets rust. Enough said.

CombatCritic Gives Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better

Five Bombs Equates To:

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Title: Abilene, KS: Great Man, Not So Great Library

Key Words: Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Eisenhower, Ike, presidential, president, library, presidential library, museum, archive, grave, Abilene, Kansas, KS, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

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