It is common knowledge that Gerald R. Ford, the United States of America’s 38th president, hailed from Grand Rapids. To honor this Michigander, there is a comprehensive and exciting museum in the heart of Grand Rapids. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is located near the Pew Campus of Grand Valley State University and the Grand Rapids Public Museum on the banks of the Grand River.
Double doors with the presidential emblem as handles greet you as you enter the museum. The main floor features the life and political career of Ford including original photos, as well as a replica of Ford’s Oval Office. The Watergate Scandal, which was the reason behind Ford’s ascension to power, is a featured exhibit that has a video history display as well as the actual tools used to break into the hotel. An extremely popular exhibit is the 70’s disco room that showcases the pop culture during the Ford Administration. Many of the younger visitors enjoy the music and retro clothing. As well, there is also a Cabinet Room where visitors can interact like in an actual meeting.
“Our core exhibits tell the story of President Ford’s long life and career. The various galleries depict Gerald Ford’s rise from a humble youth to Eagle Scout, star football player, World War II naval officer, and U.S. congressman, and how he became the nation’s vice president and chief executive without having been elected,” said Kristin Mooney, Public Affairs Specialist for the museum.
The museum also features different temporary exhibits. On display beginning July 14, 2014, will be Taking the Seas: The Rise of the American Aircraft Carrier. “This exhibit explores the development of this unique ship and the role it plays in projecting our nation’s influence abroad. From the first efforts at the close of the First World War, to the central role the carrier played in winning World War II, to the newest super-carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, the exhibit offers key artifacts, documents, and video of the rise of the American carrier,” said Mooney.
A major part of the museum’s mission is to advance and honor the principles and values Ford had throughout his life and political career. Museum staff talk about a man who exuded integrity, which the country needed following the abuses the previous administration. Even as he attained the highest office in the land, he was still Jerry Ford.
Community involvement is an important part of the mission at the museum utilizing many special events including lectures by prominent speakers. School groups often visit the museum for educational trips, and many people volunteer as a way to give back to the institution. Cost of admission is: $7 for adults,$6 for seniors, $5 for groups (20+) and college students, $3 for 6-18 and free for children 5 and under. For more information on the museum, visit their website and Facebook page.
Next time you are in West Michigan, why not check out one of the most iconic landmarks in Michigan honoring one of the greatest leaders to come out of our state?