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Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum moves ahead on update, expansion after $15 million raised

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DETROIT — The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids will move forward with a planned expansion after a foundation raised $15 million for the project, officials said Thursday.

The update came from those involved in the project including the late president's son Steven Ford, who is ending his term as chairman of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. He's being succeeded by Red Cavaney, who served on President Ford's White House staff.

Steven Ford and Cavaney said the project will build an 8,000-square-foot student learning center and create interactive exhibits at the museum in Grand Rapids. The foundation will move ahead with design plans as well as the revamped permanent exhibits. The museum is expected to announce a date for the groundbreaking date in the coming months.

"The foundation has the chance to partner with the museum and library to create something very special for our community and beyond," Steven Ford said in a statement.

The foundation said the updated exhibits will aim to engage visitors "in a deeper conversation about the impact of President and Mrs. Ford on the nation." The project also includes digitalization of important papers at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, which is located in Ann Arbor.

Fundraising has taken place since the project was announced in November 2012. The foundation said the museum and library have given approvals for construction and they're approaching the design with the aim of creating worldwide access to documents from both sites.

"Our hope is to teach our next generation of leaders the importance of leading with integrity just as President Ford demonstrated with his leadership," said Cavaney, a businessman who has served as president of the board of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.

President Gerald Ford died in 2006 and former first lady Betty Ford died in 2011. They lived in Rancho Mirage, California, for decades. Their hometown was Grand Rapids.

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