Thursday, March 30, 2006

National First Ladies Library

Me in front of the Saxton House
To counter Michael’s sad post on the diminishing number of visitors to presidential libraries, I’m going to talk about my trip to the first ladies library. I spent yesterday touring the National First Ladies Library and First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio. The Historic Site is the Saxton McKinley House that was Ida McKinley’s ancestoral home. I actually also ended up signing up volunteer there. We just moved to the Akron/Canton area and this was my first trip to the library and museum.

The Saxton-McKinley House has been beautifully restored and is a Victorian showpiece. Not only has been restored to the state it was during the McKinley’s lifetime, there are many artifacts from all the First Ladies on display. The house tour is led by a costumed docent. Ours was dressed as Lucretia Garfield. The education center, which houses the library and archives, was once a bank and is also gorgeous. When they were restoring the bank they found pink marble floors that had been covered up! The library is still small, but shows great promise (they are working on an audio/visual project with Carl Anthony that looks to be awesome!). I didn’t get to see the archives as the archivist was out ill, but I will be back to see them. The current display on the main floor is “Private Wives, Public Lives” which includes dresses of Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Edith Wilson and more! There is a curling iron that was Abigail Adams that truly made me glad I didn’t have to use it.
If you can’t get to the Canton area, you can take an online tour of the Saxton House or search their catalogue. I think these are features that more and more libraries and museums are using that people feel are as good as visiting them in person (its not, but that’s a entire other post). I would like to see how many visitors libraries and musuems get each year to their websites and online catalogues. With those, I bet they would be at their regular visitor numbers or higher.

This is definitely a tour everyone should partake of if they are in Canton area. And if you come after I receive my training, you might just get a tour led by me…as Sarah Polk, of course (my favorite First Lady).

To leave you with, here is a piece of trivia from their site:

Lucy Hayes thought herself “too light” to be married to Rutherford B. Hayes. By "light” she meant her mind being too lightweight.

1 comment:

Michael said...

This sounds like a fun visit. I'll have to try and stop by this library someday soon.