Bush Library Hosts 438,000 Visitors in First Year

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum had more than 438,000 visitors in the year since it opened to the public.

"It's been a great year in terms of visitation and the response," said Alan Lowe, the director of the museum and library.

The library on Thursday celebrated its anniversary of being open to the public. The library opened to the public on May 1, 2013, on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The library was dedicated six days earlier in a ceremony featuring all of the living presidents.

Lowe said that among the museum's most popular features are a replica of the Oval Office and the Decision Points Theater, where museum-goers are given a set of facts and then must decide what action they would take if they were in charge.

"If you look on a really busy day, those are where people are really crowding around. And of course everyone talks about the Sept. 11 part of the exhibit, how touched they are by that," he said.

The Sept. 11 exhibit includes screens playing news clips from that day and a twisted beam from the World Trade Center.

The library is currently hosting a special exhibit of portraits of world leaders painted by the former president, which Lowe said has resulted in an uptick in visitors. The exhibit called "The Art of Leadership: A President's Personal Diplomacy" runs through June 3 and includes portraits of everyone from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the late President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel.

The National Archives and Records Administration says that the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas, had more than 493,000 visitors in its first year and the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station had 309,000.

Lowe notes if they count the number of visitors in the days between the dedication and the public opening -- when visitors included donors, dedication attendees and college students and staff -- their attendance number would be more than 450,000.

When the museum was opened to the public last year, the first visitors were 43 area schoolchildren who were greeted by Bush.

Bush on Thursday kicked off his annual mountain bike ride for U.S. military members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The three-day ride is being held this year at his Crawford ranch in Central Texas. It's the fourth year that Bush has hosted the Warrior 100K, a 100-kilometer ride.

The library is part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which also includes the 43rd president's policy institute.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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