ABILENE — The opening of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Museum has officially been delayed about a month.
Dawn Hammatt, director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, said lost time because of the 35-day shutdown of the U.S. government couldn’t get made up.
The entire museum of the Eisenhower Presidential Library will be new when it opens this summer following the $11.7 million renovation.
The comprehensive redesign will reveal Ike and Mamie’s story in their own words. New interactive features will encourage guests to engage with the exhibits and find relevance in their own lives.
“In January it was a critical time in our process where we were supposed to be going back and fourth with the exhibit designers quite frequently with intellectual content with the exhibit and approvals back and forth. We just missed all that,” she said.
Hammatt was unsure if the delay would also create an increase in cost.
“The fabrication people are attempting to reallocate production time,” she said.
The exhibits were created offsite with engineers using computer models. The exhibit cases that hold the artifacts are being fabricated in Belgium.
“We are getting top of the line cases. We are very excited about the cases,” she said.
Some of the work is also being done by 1220 Exhibits, a Tennessee company that is nationally recognized as a leader in the production and installation of exhibits.
Hammatt said the library staff worked “frantically” in February to catch up.
“It’s important to me that the community knows that we are very saddened that this occurred,” she said. “We feel a great connection to Abilene.”
As employees of the National Archives and Records Administration, the campus was closed when President Donald Trump shut down the government, wanting lawmakers to fund a $5.7 billion wall between the United States and Mexico.
He reopened the government and declared a national emergency to build the wall instead.
Hammatt said she is hopeful the museum still being closed won’t impact attendance at the week-long D-Day anniversary June 1 to 6.
“To us D-Day was always a big event. It was always a six-day commemorative program. The availability of the museum was extra. It was like the topping of the cake,” she said.
She said with the museum being closed, month-to-month attendance has dropped.
“We are a little low which we anticipated. Of course the horrific winter didn’t help,” Hammatt said. “We had a two-pronged winter, bad weather and the museum building being closed. So how much of that is the weather and how much is the facility, I couldn’t tell.”
The D-Day 75th Anniversary Commemoration Week will be observed while the new exhibit installation work continues.
Activities for the week-long event begin Saturday, June 1, featuring the Salina Symphony performing during the “Symphony At Sunset” concert. There will be a host of educational programs, films, and discussions during the week.
The commemorative events culminate on June 6 with a Remembrance Ceremony and Wreath Laying honoring General Eisenhower and all veterans. Retired Air Force General Richard B. Myers is the keynote speaker for the ceremony.
Myers is currently the president of Kansas State University and served as the 15th Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The comprehensive exhibit redesign and the D-Day 75th Anniversary Commemoration Week events are made possible by donations to the Eisenhower Foundation.