That was fast!

In the few weeks since the museum reopened to the public, I’ve noticed quite a few visitors congregating around one particular piece of The American Presidency exhibition. Brett Zongker of the Associated Press noticed it too. In his article, “Renovated American history museum reopens,” he notes that “several people gathered around the small photo to take pictures with their cell phone cameras.”

ObamaFlickr image by Minneapolis Red Sox

If you haven’t guessed, the buzz is about President-elect Barack Obama, whose image appears on a timeline of presidents at the entry to the exhibition. One museum visitor quoted by Zongker exclaimed, “He’s already on here! It’s exciting,” as she took a few moments to get the perfect snapshot.

Some visitors haven’t shown as much enthusiasm about the timeliness of Obama’s inclusion on the wall and have pointed out that he is not yet president. This is true—and the date on the timeline (2009) reflects his president-elect status.

The decision to include President-elect Obama had mostly to do with wise use of limited resources. With the museum opening just a few weeks after the election and a few short weeks before the inauguration of the 44th president, the exhibition team had a decision to make about how to design and print the presidential timeline. In the end, they decided that the most prudent course was to have the exhibition designers mock up two different versions of the presidential timeline—one with Obama and one with John McCain—and wait until November 5 to print the graphic that made it into the exhibition—just in time for a November 21 opening. Interestingly, the museum confronted a similar situation when the exhibition first debuted on November 15, 2000.

The current timeline lists Obama’s presidency with an open-ended date (“2009 – “). I guess the museum will have to wait and see, along with the world at large, what the next iteration will look like.

Dana Allen-Greil is the museum’s new media project manager. She’s been keeping an eye on the photos visitors have contributed to our Flickr group depicting everything from the aforementioned presidential timeline to Dumbo the flying elephant. Have you added yours yet?