Gerald r Ford Museum

The Gerald R. Ford Museum, located at 303 Pearl St. NW in Grand Rapids, Michigan, opened in September 1981. The Museum, though geographically separate from the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, is part of the Presidential Libraries System under the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and the Museum and Library share a single director.

While in essence like most other presidential libraries, the fact that it is separated into two distinct campuses (Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor) is a major difference. Ford was also the first president to give historical materials to the public while still in office, as he donated papers and other materials to the federal government for preservation in the state of Michigan in December 1976.

The Museum was designed by Marvin DeWinter Associates (Grand Rapids); it has a 300-foot glass wall overlooking the Grand River and which provides a beautiful view of the Grand Rapids skyline. The main floor features exhibits dedicated to Ford’s life, career, and the Presidency, including a full-scale Oval Office replica. The Museum’s auditorium seats 280, and shows the film Gerald R. Ford: The Presidency Restored every hour. A major expansion of the Museum took place in 1997, with core exhibits redesigned and additional space for rotating exhibits and special events.

A number of permanent exhibits are the core of the Ford Museum. These exhibits aim to make visitors “participants” in history with hands-on, interactive displays plus video and holographic presentations. These permanent exhibits include a profile of a “Young Jerry Ford,” shows featuring the “Cabinet Room” and a day “At Work in the Oval Office,” and displays of “Leadership in Diplomacy,” a “Constitution in Crisis,” and the “1970s Gallery.”

There are also many temporary exhibits and programs each year to keep things fresh at the Museum. One of the current temporary exhibits is Picturing the Century: One Hundred Years of Photography from the National Archives, which features NARA photographs documenting the changes of the last 100 years in politics, society, and war. The Museum is also the site for a number of forums and guest speakers throughout the year, featuring everything from historical politics to today’s leaders and issues. Annual programs include the Great Decisions Lecture Series; sponsorship of Citizens Bee, a program for high schoolers devoted to history and politics; and the American Political Film Series, featuring eight movies each year, often of a controversial nature.

The Gerald R. Ford Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day); admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and military personnel, $5 for college students with ID, $3 for children 6 to 18, and free for children 5 and under. More information on the Museum and the Gerald R. Ford Library can be found at fordlibrarymuseum.gov.