Out of respect, I know we probably shouldn’t refer of our presidents as “cute,” but look at this crate filled with Woodrow Wilsons in the gift shop at the Wilson Birthplace and Presidential Museum in Staunton, Virginia. (Only $11.95!)
At the museum, a bust of President Wilson greets you on arrival (much more stately than the doll).
The museum features many pieces from Wilson’s presidency as well as his time in Princeton as a student, professor and later as university president. I liked seeing Wilson’s desk, book bag and student lamp. There are also lots of wonderful family photos.
And look at this cool old phone from the White House. During my visit (March 2013), there was an exhibit about communication, including an interactive radio that broadcast your voice.
I also enjoyed seeing documents and photos surrounding the establishment the Federal Reserve and reading about Wilson’s wives. His first wife Ellen died while he was in office, and he married his second wife Edith a year later in 1915. Some called Edith the “Secret President” because of her influence after President Wilson’s 1919 stroke.
Of course, World War I dominated the Wilson presidency, and the museum has a unique way for you to experience it – they built a bunker in the basement. Downstairs there are several rooms with exhibits devoted to the war. You can walk through this mock bunker, complete with sound effects, and even look through a “trench periscope.” The museum warns that the experience may be too much for children, but I didn’t think it was too bad. However, it is dark in the trenches.
As I wrote in the previous post, one of the stars of the Wilson museum is the president’s Pierce Arrow limousine.
While I was taking a picture of the car, I met fellow history buffs Dan and Beth, who were headed to Jefferson’s Poplar Forest the next day (I was headed there a few days later). They also recommended Robert E. Lee’s burial site and Stonewall Jackson’s house in nearby Lexington as well as a trip to see where Jackson’s arm is buried near Fredericksburg, Virginia. I will need to add those to the Nerd Trips itinerary.
For your trip planning, the Wilson museum in Staunton has decent bathrooms (always an essential). There is no food at the museum itself, but the town of Staunton has lots cafes and restaurants, and you can also hit some of the typical chains if you’re getting back on the highway.
While I prefer to try out the local eateries, I had to get on the road on this trip. If you make it to the Wilson birthplace and museum, be sure to leave time to explore the gift shop and pick up your own Woodrow Wilson to go. Yes, I bought one.
As always, I wish you loads of laughs and lots of learning on your own Nerd Trips!