The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum collects, preserves, and exhibits an assortment of historical artifacts that illustrate the life and times of Gerald R. Ford. The goal of the Ford Museum is to preserve this collection so that future generations might better understand the legacy of the nation's 38th President.
The museum holdings can be divided into seven different subject categories:
- Gerald R. Fordís life and career,
- head of state gifts given to President Ford,
- gifts from the public to the President,
- America's Bicentennial,
- 1976 Presidential Campaign,
- Whip Inflation Now (WIN) program objects,
- artifacts related to Betty Ford and the children, and
- additional artifacts.
Access to the collections is limited to serious researchers. Individuals wishing to conduct research must contact the Museum Registar in advance to make arrangements.
Please address questions about the collections, artifact donations, or artifact loans to:
James W. Draper, Registrar
Gerald R. Ford Museum
303 Pearl Street, NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Digital images of a small number of artifacts along with descriptions are now available online.
With around 19,000 artifacts in the museum’s collection, those of the most historical importance relate specifically to Gerald R. Ford.
Artifacts from Ford’s early years include his christening gown, Boy Scout merit badges, and football trophies. The museum houses his Navy uniform and other personal effects from his service on the USS Monterey during World War II.
From Ford’s 24 years of service in the House of Representatives, the museum preserves his congressional desk and campaign ephemera along with items relating to his time spent on the Warren Commission, the House Appropriations Committee, and as Minority Leader of the House.
Artifacts that highlight Gerald R. Ford’s presidency include his Oval Office furnishings, the staircase from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, and the pen used to sign Richard Nixon’s pardon.
Even Gerald R. Ford’s post-presidency period is illuminated through awards, such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Kennedy Center’s Profiles in Courage Award, as well as items from charitable sporting events.
An important portion of the museum’s artifact collection is composed of head-of-state gifts. The exchange of gifts plays an important role in diplomatic relations.
Often made from precious materials through the most skilled craftsmanship, these sometime extravagant, sometime simple gifts are always admired by visitors. Some of the gifts include a jewel-encrusted, golden falcon from Oman, elaborate cloisonné floor vases from China, a gold broach from Queen Elizabeth of England, Waterford crystal from Ireland, carved ivory candlesticks from Liberia, and a Kakiemon vase from Japan.
President Gerald R. Ford also received many gifts from American citizens. Many organizations, associations, businesses, and other groups sent Ford plaques, busts, and sculptures to show their admiration for his presidency. In addition, athletes and different sports teams signed balls, bats, gloves, and other sports equipment, which they sent to the White House.
America’s Bicentennial was one of the largest and most memorable events during Gerald Ford’s presidency. The 200th birthday of the United States of America was celebrated throughout the country in festivals, parades, pilgrimages, contests, and other events.
The material manifestations of this great benchmark in American history have been preserved in the museum’s collection through a massive array of folk art, quilts, posters, paintings, sculptures, commemorative coins and medallions, music, furnishings, clothing, and much more.
Another large category in the museum’s collection includes President Ford’s Whip Inflation Now (or WIN) program – devised early in Ford's administration by his top economic advisor, Alan Greenspan, to try to curb inflation. The WIN campaign generated vast quantities of WIN buttons, t-shirts, mugs, posters, dolls, stickers, and other forms of political ephemera. Examples of many of these can be found in the museum’s collection.
The 1976 presidential election also is very well represented in the museum's collection. President Gerald Ford defeated Governor Ronald Reagan of California in the Republican primary, only to lose the general election to Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia. Campaign artifacts include buttons, bumper stickers, brochures, posters, placards, signs, banners, and clothing, along with a variety of other novelties and political paraphernalia.
The museum also preserves artifacts related to Gerald Ford’s wife, Betty, and their children – Michael, Jack, Steven, and Susan. Among the many artifacts the museum possesses that illuminate Mrs. Ford’s role as First Lady is a collection of her dresses and gowns. These dresses, many of which were designed by such notable designers as Albert Caprarro, were worn at conventions, state dinners, inaugurations, and at numerous high-profile diplomatic events. The museum also preserves some of her jewelry and other personal effects. Examples from the children include Susan Ford’s childhood dollhouse and items from her high school prom party, which was held at the White House.
The museum preserves several different collections of artwork, artifacts associated with Gerald Ford’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, materials from other U.S. presidential campaigns, and a substantial collection of political cartoons.