smarter than ever
LBJ Library gets flashy $10 million makeover, sprinkles LBJ's recorded phonecalls throughout exhibits
Your history-buff dad or Lady Bird-loving grandma may have told you that during this year’s holiday visit to Austin, they wanted to visit the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum.
Or maybe you thought on a gray day off from work, you might finally check out this hometown landmark right there on the UT campus. After all, everyone from Mikhail Gorbachev to the attorney general has spoken there this fall alone.
Well, you can go, but brace yourself for a little construction. The museum store has already been ripped out and some display items removed as the library gets ready for a complete makeover.
By next year it will be cooler than ever. That’s because the LBJ folks are spending a cool $10 million on making the museum more interactive and smart than ever before. The last major upgrade was in 1984, and as museum director Mark Updegrove says, there are a few more technological “bells and whistles” to add now than there were then.
“It is exciting news,” Updegrove says. “It is about time we took a new look at the legacy of LBJ in the 21st century.”
Johnson’s Great Society programs and initiatives — from Medicare to the Voting Rights Act to early childhood education — continue to affect people personally, Updegrove argues. To show it, the museum exhibits will close with a touch-screen table on which visitors can trace LBJ’s impact on their lives.
Also on the nifty-list will be LBJ’s recorded phone conversations sprinkled throughout the exhibits. “No library has a treasure trove like this,” the director says. And you can listen in on as many or few as you want on your own handheld device.
The museum will also double the size of its store and add an exhibit on the Johnson family’s life in the White House (Fun: White House weddings. Not fun: protests outside the window.). The LBJ folks are looking at developing an app, too.
Don’t worry, they’re not getting rid of the goofy animatronic LBJ — the one that moves and talks just like a robotic president. They’re just shifting him to an exhibit on LBJ humor.
The bulk of the construction begins March 1, so if you want to be able to compare the old with the new once it's finished next year, the time to go is now. Work is slated to be finished by Lady Bird Johnson’s 100th birthday next December.
Until then, you have no excuse for putting off that educational trip.