Presidential inaugurations are a time to ponder this country’s republican institutions, especially the presidency and its rich history. Houghton, with its large collections of presidential material, provides such an opportunity. The library holds items connected to the presidency that span the entire arc of American history, allowing patrons and visitors to explore the lives, times, and deeds of the men who have held the highest office in the land.
This exhibition presents a thematic approach to the presidency, covering large swathes of American history to explain that multifaceted office. Beginning with Washington’s 1789 proclamation of Thanksgiving, Houghton and the Presidents also celebrates items connected to Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They range from reproductions of official documents like Charles Sumner’s copy of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to more personal documents, such as a photograph of Theodore Roosevelt as a sophomore at Harvard.
Above all, the exhibition seeks to provide a holistic picture of the American presidency. It explores morality and pragmatism; domestic and foreign policy; the public and the private; life and death; praise and criticism. The items amassed here all stem from different moments of American history, but they still inform the current state of affairs of the country. No American president was perfect, but every man who held that office felt that he was doing his best to protect the welfare of the American people. That has been and must continue to be the guiding principle of the presidency.
Curated by Houghton 75th Anniversary Fellow Arthur Schott Lopes ’19. See here for information on Houghton Undergraduate Fellowships.
The exhibition is free and on view during weekly public tours of Houghton on Fridays at 2pm, and by appointment (email firstname.lastname@example.org).