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Harry S Truman Presidential Library

Page history last edited by Paul Keenan 13 years, 8 months ago

Date of tip: 14 August 2005 (Research visit February/March 2005) 

Source:  Brigitte Leucht, University of Portsmouth: brigitte.leucht@port.ac.uk


Location: Harry S. Truman Library, U.S. Highway 24 and Delaware Street, Independence, Missouri 64050-1798, USA.


Contact Details: Tel. +1-816-268-8200. E -mail: truman.library@nara.gov.


Possible Accommodation:  The Truman archives’ website provides a useful collection of links with brief descriptions: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/lodging.htm. At ‘Harry’s House’, where Truman spent some of his boyhood years, you can rent an apartment with bathroom and kitchenette. Also providing basic kitchen facilities for private catering is the hotel ‘The Olive Tree’. Both are within walking distance (10-15 minutes) to the archive and offer special rates for researchers.   


How to get there:  The closest airport is Kansas City International. If you are coming from Europe, Chicago is a convenient transfer airport. To get advice on the best routes available and quotes for multi-destination tickets, you might want to consult with the travel company ‘Airtreks’ which I have found very helpful: http://www.airtreks.com. Kansas City is partly in the state of Kansas, partly in Missouri. Independence is about a good half-hour drive from the KCI airport. Ask for pick up options when you book your accommodation. Should you stay at ‘Harry’s House’, for example, the owner, Lee Dorfman, might offer to pick you up for USD 25.   


Language:  English  


Getting started:  The Truman Presidential Library is housed in the same building as the Truman Museum with a separate and clearly marked entrance for researchers. To be admitted to the research facilities you need to present the guard on duty with a valid photo ID. You will have to sign in every time you enter the building and sign out when you leave. An archivist will provide you with a brief orientation and issue you a research card. I would advise to schedule your research visit in advance by telephone so to make sure that an archivist is expecting you. It is not required but it helps.  

The holdings of the library can easily be researched on the archive’s website. The descriptions of collections are detailed. Some materials are also available online, e.g. most of the oral history collection which comprises interviews with actors who played a role in and around the Truman administration. 


Opening Hours:  The reading room is open from 8:45 am to 4:45 pm weekdays, and 8.45 am to 12:45 pm on Saturdays. On Saturdays, the reading room is open by appointment only, which must be scheduled at the latest by 12 p.m. the Thursday preceding the desired Saturday. It is closed for all American federal bank holidays. 


General working conditions:  The reading room is spacious and the staff is extremely friendly and helpful.  In addition to consulting archival materials you can make use of the holdings of the research library. Dictionaries and other devices for consultation are as readily available as are the ‘Foreign Relations of the United States’ volumes.   


Consultation:  There are regulations addressing the retrieval of archival sources, but my experience has been that materials are retrieved on request. 


Policy on technology:  Pencils, laptops and digital cameras are allowed. 


Photocopy policy:  You can self-copy all books and other printed materials. However, you are only allowed to copy the first page of original multi-page documents. Copies of all other documents have to be ordered and will be made for you. Self-copies are 15 cents each and copies that are made for you are slightly more expensive.  


Particularities: There are lockers where you can store personal belongings. You can also bring your lunch and will be permitted to put it in the fridge in the staff kitchen. Considering that food options are very limited if you are not driving, this is a big plus. There are vending machines where you can purchase soft drinks and junk food.  


How to apply for classified files: I have not consulted classified files. Given the practice of what appeared to be an open access to information, however, you should have no difficulties to find out application procedures when contacting the archive.   


Contact name in case of questions regarding classified files: I would suggest calling up the Reading Room where the person in charge will direct your request to an archivist. If you are very lucky, the person answering the phone is Liz Safly, the Truman library’s long-serving librarian who is a splendid source of information on Harry Truman and beyond.  


Funding: To help finance my stay, I received a grant that the library awards annually to PhD students. For grant opportunities please see http://www.trumanlibrary.org/grants/index.html.



General Assessment:  I have been thoroughly impressed with the research infrastructure and the warm welcome which staff, volunteers and interns have provided. Over the four weeks of my research visit I was invited to attend library lectures and join staff lunches. Notably, Harry Truman is sometimes spoken of in the present tense! Through their deep knowledge of the Truman years (and beyond) which archivists like Randy Sowell have shared and more generally, the anecdotes circulating within the library, the Truman years have become far more tangible to me. This was facilitated moreover by the fact I stayed for a month in the southern Midwest, in the hometown of Harry Truman. I would warmly recommend the library for anyone working on the history of early European integration and the early years of the Cold War.

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