DC at Night

DC at Night

Monday, February 17, 2014

The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden

Streets often get presidential names. Washington is also first here
Since it is the nation's capital and the home of the White House, there are many appropriate places to spend President's Day. One of the more informative is The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Here you view artifacts related to all 44 of America's president from George Washington to Barack Obama.

As the title of the exhibit suggests, both the positive and negative aspects of the position are explored. In 1964, then-president Lyndon B. Johnson captured that duality when he said, "The presidency has made every man who occupied it, no matter how small, bigger than he was: and no matter how big, not big enough for its demands."

Presidents Bush 2, Clinton, Bush 1, and Carter: 
The exhibit is divided into 7 sections. Here is a quick look at those sections and a highlighted item from the dozens in each.

Celebrating Inaugurations
  • the oversized overcoat worn by Grover Cleveland at his 1885 swearing-in
Presidential Roles
  • the chaps worn by Teddy Roosevelt when he visited his Dakota Territory ranch
The White House as Symbol and Home
  • a colorful chessboard used by John Quincy Adams
Limits of Presidential Power
  • a file cabinet damaged when the Plumbers, authorized by President Richard Nixon, broke into the psychiatrist's office of Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg
Assassination and Mourning
  • a wooden black sign with stark white letters reading: "Closed ... Sun. Mon. Tues. ... Due to the Death of President Kennedy
The Presidency in Popular Imagination
  • a video compilation showing how various presidents have been represented in Hollywood films over the years
Life After the Presidency
  • George Washington's favorite red chair which he used at his Mount Vernon home after he retired as the first president in American history
One final note: Currently, the most viewed item in the exhibition is not on display in the presidential gallery. That item is President Abraham Lincoln's top hat.

However, the historic hat is viewable at the history museum's exhibit titled Changing America: The Emancipation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963.

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