Type:National Park, Museum, Gallery
On a hill overlooking the city of Atlanta, the Carter Library and Museum houses a vast collection of memorabilia from Jimmy Carter's early life in Plains, GA, his term as governor of Georgia, his term as President of the United States, and the years following government service. One notable recent addition to the museum is Carter's recently awarded Noble Peace Prize.
History of the Carter Library and Museum
Not everybody agreed with Jimmy Carter's choice of Atlanta as the location for his presidential library. Building one in Plains (Carter's hometown) probably would have been easier and cheaper, but the central location in Atlanta, along with the newly developed Freedom Parkway intended to connect the library to nearby I-75, made the city attractive to the Carters. They selected a site on a hill overlooking the city and adjacent to an old interstate right-of-way that the city had never developed.
Almost immediately the outcry of local residents and historians was deafening. It seems the site selected by the Carters (his wife Rosalyn was involved in most of the planning) was located on the hill from which General William Tecumseh Sherman watched the Battle of Atlanta. Local citizens were even more enraged. The concept of a interstate connecting downtown to the east perimeter that they had successfully defeated a few years earlier had risen again. Forming a group called CAUCE, the citizens fought to preserve their local community. Finally Carter pushed through the "Freedom Pakrway" concept, a scaled-down community-friendly revision of the original plan.
For four years construction crews worked on the museum and adjacent library, plus an additional set of buildings, today's Carter Center, where the former president continues with his humanitarian enterprises. The Carter Center is not open to the public. The library is open for historical research by appointment. The museum, however, is packed with attractive displays covering the life of Carter, his marriage to his childhood sweetheart Rosalyn Smith, his term as president and present day humanitarian efforts of the Noble prize-winning president.
Professionally designed and attractively laid out, your visit to the Carter Museum begins with a movie discussing the life of Carter, his term in office and highlights of his life after the presidency. Following the Jimmy Carter timeline, featuring a chronology of of events during his life (actually, it begins at the start of the 20th Century), takes visitors into the heart of the museum.
The First Lady
On the right, near the end of the timeline is a section on Rosalyn Carter. One of the best-loved First Ladies in our Nation's history, the exhibit on Mrs. Carter shows her mostly as the wife of a President and how she combined the duties of a First Lady with the other aspects of being both a mother and a wife. Jimmy Carter has always considered her his closest advisor, and as such she had a significant impact on the presidency.
An exact recreation of the Oval Office is truly one of the highlights of the Presidential Museum and Library. Carter, speaking on tape, talks about the office and some of the things that occurred here. Visitors may stand in a large doorway but are not permitted entrance into the office itself.
The desk is a replica - the actual desk is still in use. Behind the desk are the United States flag and the flag of the President. The window shows the expansive "South Lawn". Above the fireplace on the opposite side of the room is a replica of a famous George Washington painting. Other, smaller painting were chosen by Carter when he decorated the Oval Office.
This exhibit covers Jimmy Carter's youth, including joining the Navy (under Admiral Hyman Rickover), marrying Rosalyn (Smith) Carter, and his return to Plains following the death of his father to manage the large agricultural business built by James Sr.
Photos from his early life introduce the key members of the family we knew from Plains: his wife Rosalyn, mother Lillian, First Brother Billy Carter, and children, Amy (who lived with Jimmy and Rosalyn in the White House), Chip, Jeff and Jack.
Rise in politics
In what might be described as a meteoric rise, Jimmy Carter, who had served on the Sumter County School Board, ran for state senate in 1963, made an unsucessful bid for governor in 1966, then won the race in 1970. On the night George McGovern lost the presidential race to Richard Nixon he set his sights on the office of the President.
This section also includes information on Jimmy Carter's agenda while Goveror of Georgia. He began to appoint a cabinet that reflected the racial make-up of the state, offering minority appointees in the only recently desegrated state. Also covered is the reorganization of the state government to reduce costs and an appearence on show "What's My Line." (they failed to guess he was governor of Georgia).
Race to the White House, 1974-1976
Using printed material, archival photos and film the Carter Museum recreates the 1976 campaign against Gerald Ford for President of the United States. Beginning at the end of his term as governor, exhibits illustrate his down-home image, from annoucing his candidacy at from his campaign headquarters, the rairoad depot in Plains, Georgia, to his "Hi, I'm Jimmy Carter and I'm running for President" catch phrase.
A series of televised debuts, which revived a historic American forum for campaigning are also pictured. One interesting photo showed President Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter standing around waiting for techinicians to fix a sound problem.
Serving the people of the United States
Far and away the largest section of the museum is dedicated to Carter's years as president. but a majority of the exhibits concentrate on the major goals and events of Mr. Carter's term. Among them are:
Finally, the Presidential years end with a discussion of his defeat in 1980 by Republican Ronald Reagan.
After the Presidency
Following his years in office, Jimmy Carter began another career as an Ambassador of Peace. From world-wide humanatarian efforts in third-world countries to building homes for the less well off here in the United States, Carter never gave up on his vision for a better world. In 2002 Mr. Carter won the Noble Peace Prize, which the museum has on display.
What keeps us coming back to the Carter Museum and Library is the Changing Gallery. Whether it is an exhibit on presidential photographs or an exhibit on America's First Ladies, the Gallery offers a wide range of exhibits that are always worthwhile. To find out what's on display, visit the museum's web site (see link below) or call them (see phone number below).
Location: On Freedom Parkway just west of I-75 in downtown Atlanta
Directions: Take the Downtown Connector (this is the corridor where I-75 and I-85 are combined in downtown Atlanta) to Freedom Parkway (Exit 248c). At the Carter Center turn left into the ample parking area.
Busiest times are weekends during the summer.
441 Freedom Parkway
Date added: September 30, 2004
Last update: October 4, 2004
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