LBJ library director plans renovation to attract students

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As one of his first major acts as director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, Mark Updegrove proposed renovations to the museum’s permanent exhibit to attract a wider and younger crowd. The renovation will update the museum’s permanent exhibit about former President Lyndon Baines Johnson to make it more interactive and relevant to students. The exhibit will incorporate computerized technology that was not available when it was originally installed. “We want people to leave the renovated library thinking that it’s state of the art,” Updegrove said. “We want them to believe that the experience they have here is on par with any experience at any library or any museum.” Updegrove, who became director after a career in media and as a presidential historian, took the position in October 2009. Anne Wheeler, LBJ Library and Museum spokeswoman, said the renovations are firmly in the planning stages, without blueprints or a solidified budget to demonstrate what the renovations will look like and cost. However, Updegrove said the plan will cost approximately several million dollars and hopes the renovations will be completed by the Lady Bird Johnson Bicentennial in December 2012. “The exhibit hasn’t seen a marked change in over 20 years,” Updegrove said. “We want to make the president accessible to younger folks. What we want to do is to take a 21st century view of this president: looking at the accomplishments of LBJ through the lens of the present.” The National Archives, a federal organization responsible for historical preservation, built the LBJ Library on the UT campus in 1971. Although the library is on UT property, the National Archives is responsible for the building’s upkeep. Kevin Hegarty, vice president of financial affairs and chief financial officer, said none of the funds for the renovation will come out of the UT budget, which is already strained. Updegrove said the fundraising body for the renovations is the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to benefiting the LBJ Library and Museum and the LBJ School of Public Affairs. UT is not involved in raising the funds for the renovations, Updegrove said. The renovations will be handled by a Silver Springs, Md., design firm, but Updegrove said he hopes to collaborate with local architects to stimulate the local economy. “Times are tough, but because our economy has slowed, we shouldn’t put on hold projects that we deem important,” Updegrove said.