Joining the Peanut Brigade

Blog post by Development and Marketing Manager Rachel Kassman. To read more posts from Rachel, click here.

Right at the end of February I got to visit Atlanta for the wedding of some dear friends (it was a fantastic event) and had decided to make it a real vacation, adding a few days before and after to enjoy some of what Atlanta has to offer. In making my tourist destination decisions, I decided to see what I could do only traversing on foot – and lo and behold, the perfect spot popped up on my phone’s map app: The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, less than 2 miles from my accommodations for the week!

Despite a chilly start to the day (I woke up to a 33-degree morning – two degrees colder than Baltimore on the same day!), the skies were clear and sunny, and I had come prepared with cold weather outerwear. After a brief stop for coffee at a local café, I headed over to the Museum to see what I could learn.

Entrance to the Carter Presidential Center, courtesy of Wikimedia.

Confession time: I am not a particular student of American presidential history, and beyond selling his peanut farm and retiring to a life of building houses for those in need, I knew very little about James Earl Carter Jr., 39th president of the USA. Happily, after purchasing my ticket and grabbing a map, I stepped into the introductory experience of the Museum – a short film biography of President Carter. I rarely stop for video experiences while traversing an exhibit, but since this was stop one, and the gentleman who sold me my ticket intimated the video was a required part of entry, I sat down to enjoy the show.

I’m glad I did – the film was concise and well-paced. From early days in Plains, Georgia through a vigorous retirement to world affairs, I moved into the Museum itself with a solid foundation on Jimmy’s life and work, thanks to the intro film.

Of course, as a Museum professional, I can’t help myself – when I go into another Museum I always have my eye out looking for neat interactives, exhibit armature (the ways things are displayed and built), and interesting choices made by exhibit designers and curators about what to display. The Carter Presidential Center did not disappoint!

There were multiple ways to interact with the exhibit:

One example is this manual flip-up station – there were multiple stations similar to this throughout the exhibit, set at kid height and, as you can see here, brightly colored and stylized.

Each one was focused on helping visitors connect the exhibit – and the experiences of President Carter – to their own lives. This interactive asks visitors to consider President Carter’s lifelong commitment to helping others.
Another station highlighted Carter’s love of reading as a child, sharing some of his favorite books and asking which ones the visitor may have read and remembered.
Like the interactive above, the next station exemplifies connecting material in the exhibit directly to the interactive. Slightly earlier in the exhibit, one of the personal items on display was this Argus Rangefinder camera that belonged to Carter during his Navy years.
As you move through the exhibit you then encounter this Naval submarine station – all those wheels and buttons and knobs turn and press! The center pillar represents a submarine periscope and in the viewfinder ports you can watch a slide show of photos taken by Carter with his Rangefinder camera.
But perhaps my favorite hands-on spot in the exhibit was the archival research section.
Not only was there a digital interactive screen for exploring archival documents related to President Carter, but a whole wall of “archival box” drawers you could investigate! It’s rare to see the sort of behind-the-scenes collections storage and materials most often associated with “serious researchers” front-and-center for folks of all ages to enjoy. It definitely made my museum professional heart happy.
I am also a sucker for exhibits that feature the small(er) details of a life, particularly when it helps ground almost mythic figures (like an American president) in the realities of day to day life. Two things that caught my eye were this delicate baby sweater hand embroidered by Rosalyn Carter and this engraved compact, a gift to Rosalyn from her husband. The engraving reads “ILYTG,” which means I love you the goodest.
I also enjoyed the wide array of gifts President Carter received during his presidency, from all over the world – and right at home, like the beaded belt buckle in the top left corner here. It was made by a student at St. Michael’s School in North Dakota and depicts Carter’s signature peanut!
(Though my favorite/most terrifying peanut artifact has to be this political support poster – this toothy peanut has started to haunt my dreams!)
And how about this “Shalom Y’All” plaque? Really reminds me of a certain custom mug available online at Esther’s Place….#ShalomHon. The plaque here was a gift from the crew of a U.S. transport plane that flew Carter to the Middle East in March 1979.
One of my absolute favorite Museum displays are textiles that include photos of the material actually being worn – like these inauguration outfits worn by the Carter family as they walked down Pennsylvania Avenue (the first and only presidential family to do so since Thomas Jefferson)!
And of course, I had to snap a quick selfie in the replica Oval Office before heading out to enjoy the rest of my time in Atlanta.

While you can’t pop down to Atlanta and visit in-person yourself right now, you CAN take a virtual tour!


World of Museums

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