So are you curious? What exactly is a “busman’s holiday” anyway?
The Oxford English Dictionary (available in our APU databases) says that it is “leisure time spent in occupations of the same nature as those in which one engages for a living.” Another source mentioned that even when the busman (bus driver) wanted to go on holiday, he still needed to take a bus in order to get to his destination – so it was difficult for him to leave his work truly behind.
I suppose I’m like this – I love going on visits to new places but always enjoy seeing
some of the familiar – great bookstores, wonderful libraries, inspiring museums.
As you have seen in my previous two posts, this trip through some of the midwest helped me to explore some of these favorites. One of the library-museums I didn’t yet share about was the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. You see, I’m working on making my way around to all of the U.S. Presidential Libraries – slowly but surely. There are 13 Presidential libraries that are a part of the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) – and so far, I have been to 5 of them.
The libraries are not the kind you might usually think of – but function as museums and archives. I enjoy visiting them not only as a way to learn more about the history of a particular president, but also of the time period that they served in office. I was once asked to consider serving on the leadership team of a presidential library as it was developing, and while I ultimately did not choose to move in this direction professionally, it has made me far more aware of the role of these libraries and the stories they tell: of the time period, of the president’s personal and family history, of the decisions made in office and the longer term impact…and I have found at each of the libraries that I have visited, that I am so impressed with how the librarians and historians tell these stories.
A little background…
The Presidential Library system began in 1939 when Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his papers to the Federal Government and then pledged part of his estate in Hyde Park, NY, for the purpose of constructing a library and museum. Roosevelt believed that the work of a president was a part of the American national heritage and should be preserved for study by the American people. In 1955 the first Presidential Libraries Act was passed by Congress which established a plan for privately erecting Presidential libraries that would then be federally maintained. US Presidents were encouraged, but not required, to give their archives to these libraries. For many years it was believed that the papers of a presidential administration became the personal property of a president but the Presidential Records Act of 1978 established that the records became the property of the US government. Once the President leaves office, the records for his administration become the property of the Archivist of the United States. There is a wonderful website developed by the National Archives that contains much more detail on the establishment and backgrounds of these libraries, and links to these libraries with a wide-range of online resources on these presidents.
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the archives is located in Ann Arbor (I believe this may be the only one of the presidential libraries that has two distinct locations).
Gerald R. Ford was the 38th US President (completing Richard M. Nixon’s term of office, 1974-1977) and is one of the first presidents that I remember as I was growing up. At the time I was probably more aware of him through the stories about his family – as he came to the White House with four children in their teens/early twenties, and for the teasing he received by comedians such as Chevy Chase for tripping. I hadn’t realized the breadth of his experience in taking office – 24 years in Congress and six months as Vice President (succeeding Spiro Agnew) before being sworn in as President. I also discovered he was quite an athlete – and that the jokes made about his lack of coordination were greatly exaggerated.
The Museum features a historical view of his family life and growing up in Michigan, legislative initiatives, his work with NASA, and his international diplomacy efforts. I had not been aware of how much his faith impacted his life and found this reflected in different ways around the museum. I’m including a photograph I took of his favorite scripture verse, below. It was a fascinating way to spend a morning!
If you are interested in more information about President Ford’s life and legacy, we have quite a few books in the Marshburn Library that might interest you.