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Museum Honors Presidential Also-rans

A museum in Kansas honors those who lost their bid to become president of the United States. (They Also Ran Museum)

A small town in northwest Kansas is home to a museum honoring those who lost in their bid to become U.S. president.

For over 50 years, the “They Also Ran” gallery in Norton, Kansas, has been honoring campaign losers by displaying their portraits. Now the tiny museum has readied a place for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Museum officials insist the gallery exists not to mock losers but to highlight their spirit and hard work.

“No one likes the guy who comes in second place, but we’re proud of the people who tried,” said Lee Ann Shearer, the exhibit’s longtime curator told Time magazine. “We’re not dissing you because you didn’t make president. It takes a lot of guts. You almost achieved the highest office in the country and imagine the feeling of defeat when you don’t get it.”

Her feelings were echoed by city councilor Roberta Ryan.

“These guys deserve some recognition for having the guts to run for president. The president gets his due, and these guys were just left by the wayside,” Ryan told the Boston Globe newspaper. “This is a gentle reminder that these fellas are part of our history. And a lot of them probably worked harder than the vice presidents.”

Currently, the walls of the museum are adorned with 60 black and white images of presidential runners-up. Trump or Clinton will be the 61st.

Full disclosure: Shearer told Time she hopes she’ll be putting up a photo of Clinton on inauguration day, January 20, 2017. “It would be our first female here, too,” she said. “We’ve had 60 guys. We’d probably like a lady in here.”

So far, only one of the honored also-rans has paid the museum a visit: native Kansan and former senator Bob Dole, who lost his bid for the White House in 1996 when Bill Clinton was elected.

The museum has yet to become a tourist hot spot, attracting only 250 visitors per year. However, some of those have come from as far away as Germany.

“You never have those 'almosts' all in one spot,” Shearer said. “They’re easily forgotten, but since we have them in place here, they’re not forgotten. They were part of the fabric of our country. If they didn’t make president, they sure worked hard for the country they love.”