Wilson Library Expansion Plans

By: Shane Symolon Email
By: Shane Symolon Email

President Woodrow Wilson would have been 151 Monday, if he were still alive. History buffs, and area residents, packed his presidential library in Staunton during an open house to celebrate the day.

A huge addition to the presidential library is being planned, but it won't just help bring more visitors to the museum. It could help bring more tourism to the city in general.

When he was born in Staunton, he was called Thomas, but everyone remembers him as President Woodrow Wilson. People from around Virginia and the nation, like Phil and Linda Ferrara, celebrated Wilson's 151st birthday by learning some history.

"It's very informative. It makes you aware of how important history is," says Linda.

Director of Development Nancy McIntyre says more room is needed to tell the whole story. A full presidential library is in the planning phases, not only to enlarge the museum, but to also bring in academics.

"Our collections are growing, and we need to have that available for people to come and do research here as well as to actually feel and touch the documents, which is important," says McIntyre.

The expansion will help put Staunton on the map of places to visit. About 17,000 people visited this year, but after construction, they say the library could bring as many as 150,000 people a year, which could give tourism a healthy boost.

"To the local economy, to downtown Staunton, and we're hoping that everyone will embrace that as we continue to grow and enhance the programs," says McIntyre.

The Ferraras say an expansion would bring them back to spend more time in Staunton.

"It's a unique setting, because it's sort of in an urban environment in small town Virginia and it's particularly tasteful," says Phil.

McIntyre says that the expansion is still just in the planning phases, including drawing up plans and looking for money. Library officials also still have to convince city residents that a huge construction project in the historic part of Staunton is best for everyone.

Also in the works are new educational programs for the library like ones showing teachers how to better teach history.

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