Visiting a museum of a modern president is a somewhat odd experience, since the events seem so recent (especially compared to a site related to Washington, John Adams or Jefferson). However, many of the events from the Bush (41) presidency happened more than 20 years ago!
We visited the day after Christmas, driving three hours across Texas to College Station. Bush 41, a Yale grad, chose the campus of Texas A&M University for his library saying he loved “the Aggie spirit.” (We didn’t see much “Aggie spirit” with the students on holiday break, but everyone at the museum was very nice).
After watching an introductory film, we set out on our museum tour, which was a bit hurried since we arrived in College Station late in the day. One volunteer said you could do the museum in about an hour-and-a-half, but I can tell you that seems a bit rushed. The museum offers a lot to see, read and do!
One of the first displays highlights “Symbols of the Presidency,” such as this limousine. The Bush library and museum says it houses 43 million pages of official and personal papers, more than 2 million audiovisual images and 90,000 original artifacts – that’s quite a collection!
That collection includes lots of family photos, and since this presidency is so recent, you may feel like you know “George and Barbara” pretty well.
One of the museum’s largest pieces may be a restored 1944 TBM Avenger, a plane similar to the one Bush flew as a Navy pilot. Before visiting the museum, I really didn’t know much about President Bush’s experience in World War II. It’s quite a story. Under attack from Japanese anti-aircraft fire, the future president had to bail out and floated in the Pacific Ocean for four hours before a submarine rescued him.
Underneath the plane is flight simulator where you can try to land a plane on an aircraft carrier. I failed on three attempts. My brother did it on his first try – so annoying! My tip to you, don’t over think it!
You can also sit down with a sculpture of President Bush in a display about his time at the United Nations. A trip to the museum gives you an appreciation of the varied experience Bush Sr. had before becoming president, ranging from businessman (oil) to ambassador to China to CIA director. At the CIA display, there’s a satellite that will show you an image of yourself standing in the museum. Throughout the museum, you’ll see these mailboxes with dogs, which resemble the Bushes’ dog Millie, who was the mother of another Bush dog, Ranger. We think the mailboxes contain special items for a kids tour, however, we didn’t have much time to investigate because we were racing through the museum. If anyone knows what’s in the mailboxes, please let me know!
Next post: Sitting behind the desk in President Bush’s Oval Office.