Bridwell displays Presidential Documents


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The Presidential Documents digital exhibit pamphlet. (Courtesy of Bridwell Library)

As a nod to the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Bridwell Library opened an exhibit displaying certain presidential documents on Dec. 20.

The exhibit features documents of 10 United States presidents written when they were in office, before they were elected or after their term of service. Every document is either a letter or a White House invitation sent to an American Methodist.

Upon entering the notably quiet Bridwell Library, the Presidential documents are the first displays to be seen, protected in glass casing. While the presidential documents may be hard to read, visitors can pick up a pamphlet that provides information on the display. This pamphlet features an enlarged emblem taken from the invitation to the White House from President and Mrs. Taft printed on the front.

Bridwell Special Collections Archivist Tim Binkley described the exhibit as, “Bridwell’s way of inviting the community to study the presidential documents.”

Previously, Bridwell has held two other exhibits featuring presidential documents. The first displayed presidential autographs and the second showed campaign materials.

The current exhibit documenting the communication between presidents and Methodist figures hasn’t been seen much in 50 years and the documents truly shed light upon the friendships formed between them, Binkley said.

This idea is exemplified by the correspondence between the 24th President Grover Cleveland and Fanny Crosby. Crosby was a prolific hymn writer who, despite her blindness, wrote 8,000 hymns. These documents are Binkley’s favorite.

“[The] informality of the letters and kind words signify a deep friendship,” Binkley said.

The documents featured in the exhibit range from 1854 to 1957. Included are letters from Former Presidents Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and, last but not least, Lyndon B. Johnson. After surviving 160 years, these documents make a great compliment to the presidential legacy at SMU.

The presidential documents will be on display in Bridwell Library until May 9. For more information, and to flip through a digital exhibit pamphlet, visit Bridwell Library’s website.

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