Gerald Ford Museum, Grand Rapids
Both permanent exhibits and a succession of temporary exhibits are on display at the museum for all to see. The museum opened to the public in September of 1981. Unlike other Presidential libraries, the museum component is geographically separate from the library/archives. The Library is in Ann Arbor on the campus of the University. They are considered one but are just in separate locations.
Gerald Ford served in the House of Representatives for Michigan from 1949 to 1973. Because of his desire for the museum to be honest he wanted it built where he had served so many years.
You begin the tour of the museum going through “Gerald Ford’s America” where you are thrust back to the 1970′s. There are two disco dummies on a Saturday Night Fever dance floor. The displays of a leisure suit, protester arrest photos, things like a pet rock and pet rock are on display.
Moving on you will enter Watergate. Here you will see exhibits showing Spiro Agnew’s resignation letter, the actual tools used by the Watergate burglars, Ford’s cue cards for taking the Oath of Office. Ford was responsible for the pardon of Nixon on the Watergate scandal. There were many letters and telegrams about the pardon, most people really hated the fact that he had done the pardon.
There is a glass display with Betty Fords ballroom gowns. Further on is the “Leadership in Diplomacy” room which features a Huey helicopter and the actual staircase that stood atop the US Embassy in Saigon.
There interactive replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room. You can hear the disembodied voices of actors pretending to be Kissinger and Rockefeller. You can sit at a long table and discuss with others whether to bail out New York City of bankruptcy.
There is an ATM display showing that Ford was the President who signed the legislation that made it legal to get money from them.
Ford was President during the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. The nation was filled with national pride and celebrations of it’s beginning.
On display is also the .45 pistol used by Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme to try to assassinate the president in 1975. Next to the pistol is a halfhearted letter of apology written by Sara Jane Moore who also tried to kill the President only 17 days after Fromme with a .38 Smith and Wesson.
Gerald R. Ford took the oath of office on August 9, 1974. He had been the first Vice President chosen under the terms of the Twenty-fifth Amendment and, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, was succeeding the first President to ever resign.
Ford faced his presidency with a heavily Democratic Congress. He finally got his own cabinet to work with but when he ran for the office in 1976 he was defeated by former Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia.
President and Mrs. Ford like the location of the museum so much that they arranged to be buried in the lawn, on a hillside just north of the building. Gerald Ford was laid to rest on January 3, 2007.
The museum is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm (it is closed on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day).
Location: 303 Pearl St., NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Directions: I-196 to exit 77A (US 131). South on US 131 to exit 85B (Pearl Street). East on Pearl, then a quick turn north into the Museum parking lot.