Official seal of the presidential libraries
Official seal of the presidential libraries

In the United States, the presidential library system is a nationwide network of 13 libraries (with a fourteenth in progress) administered by the Office of Presidential Libraries, which is part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). These are repositories for preserving and making available the papers, records, collections and other historical materials of every president of the United States from Herbert Hoover (31st president, 1929–1933) to George W. Bush (43rd president, 2001–2009). In addition to the library services, museum exhibitions concerning the presidency are displayed.

Although recognized as having historical significance, before the mid-20th century presidential papers and effects were generally understood to be the private property of the president. Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd president, 1933–1945) proposed to leave his papers to the public in a building donated by him on his Hyde Park estate. Since then a series of laws established the public keeping of documents and the presidential library system. While not officially sanctioned and maintained by NARA, libraries have also been organized for several presidents who preceded Hoover and the official start of the Presidential Library Office.

The library sites are sometimes referred to as presidential centers. The Barack Obama Presidential Center (44th president, 2009–2017) will operate under a new model, whereby the Barack Obama Presidential Library is fully digitized, preserved, and administered by NARA with archival materials lent to the privately operated Presidential Center for display.[1]

Overview

For every president since Herbert Hoover, presidential libraries have been established in each president's home state in which documents, artifacts, gifts of state and museum exhibits are maintained that relate to the former president's life and career both political and professional. Each library also provides an active series of public programs. When a president leaves office, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) establishes a presidential materials project to house and index the documents until a new presidential library is built and transferred to the federal government.

The first presidential library is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, dedicated on June 30, 1941. The George W. Bush Presidential Center became the thirteenth on May 1, 2013.

Presidential libraries outside NARA

The presidential library system is made up of thirteen presidential libraries operated by the NARA.[n 1] Libraries and museums have been established for earlier presidents, but they are not part of the NARA presidential library system, and are operated by private foundations, historical societies, or state governments, including the James K. Polk, William McKinley, Rutherford Hayes, Calvin Coolidge, Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson libraries. For example, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is owned and operated by the state of Illinois.

The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace was not originally part of the presidential library system. While the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff, which administers the Nixon presidential materials under the terms of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, is part of NARA, a private foundation operated the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace. In January 2004, Congress passed legislation that provided for the establishment of a federally operated Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda. In March 2005, the Archivist of the United States and John Taylor, the director of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation, exchanged letters on the requirements to allow the Nixon Library to become the twelfth federally funded presidential library operated by the NARA by 2007. On October 16, 2006, Dr. Timothy Naftali began his tenure as the first federal director of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace, and in the winter of 2006 NARA began to transfer the 30,000 presidential gifts from the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff in College Park, Maryland to the facility.[3][4] On July 11, 2007, the Nixon Foundation deeded the Library and Birthplace to the government of the United States. On the same day, the newly renamed federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum officially opened.[5]

In May 2012, on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation, it selected Mississippi State University as the permanent location for Ulysses S. Grant's presidential library.[6] Historian John Simon edited Grant's letters into a 32-volume scholarly edition published by Southern Illinois University Press.[7]

On April 30, 2013, both chambers of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly passed a bill appropriating $12 million to Dickinson State University to award a grant to the Theodore Roosevelt Center for construction of a building to be named the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. To access these funds, the Theodore Roosevelt Center must first raise $3 million from non-state sources.[8] Dickinson State University is also home to the Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library which has formed partnerships with the Library of Congress and Harvard University, among other institutions. They currently have over 25,000 items online.

On April 12, 2016, Harding 2020, a collaboration between the Harding Home, Ohio History Connection, and Marion Technical College, detailed plans to spend $7.3 million to establish the Warren G. Harding Presidential Center. Plans include restoring the Harding Home, Warren G. Harding's historic home in Marion, Ohio, and its grounds to its 1920 appearance. A 15,000-square-foot presidential center and museum will also be built adjacent to the house. Harding's presidential papers will then be moved from its current location at the Ohio History Connection's headquarters in Columbus, Ohio to the new center. The culmination of the work, scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2020, is to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Harding's election to the presidency.[9]

In May 2017, it was announced that the Barack Obama Presidential Center, the planned location of the presidential library of Barack Obama, would not be part of the NARA system, making Obama the first president since Calvin Coolidge not to have a federally funded facility.[10] Instead, in a "new model" the nonprofit Obama Foundation will partner with the NARA on digitization and making documents available.[11] The Chicago Park District began related construction in August and suspended it in September 2018. It was announced that the city of Chicago would own the Center.[12][13]

History

Historically, all presidential papers were considered the personal property of the president. Some took them at the end of their terms, others destroyed them, and many papers were scattered.[14] Though many pre-Hoover collections now reside in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress,[15] others are split among other libraries, historical societies, and private collections. However, many materials have been lost or deliberately destroyed.

Lucretia Rudolph Garfield, the wife of James A. Garfield (president from March 4, 1881, until his death on September 19, 1881) added a Memorial Library wing to their family home in Mentor, Ohio, four years after his assassination. The James A. Garfield National Historic Site is operated by the National Park Service and the Western Reserve Historical Society.

National Archives

In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt donated his personal and presidential papers to the federal government. At the same time, Roosevelt pledged part of his estate at Hyde Park, New York to the United States, and friends of the president formed a non-profit corporation to raise funds for the construction of the library and museum building. Roosevelt's decision stemmed from his belief that presidential papers were an important part of the national heritage and should be accessible to the public. He asked the National Archives to take custody of his papers and other historical materials and to administer his library.[14] On June 30, 2013, new interactive and multimedia exhibits developed by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) opened to the public as part of the first renovation of this library since its opening.[16]

In 1950, Harry S. Truman decided that he, too, would build a library to house his presidential papers and helped to galvanize congressional action.

Presidential Libraries Act of 1955

In 1955, Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955,[17] establishing a system of privately erected and federally maintained libraries. The Act encouraged other presidents to donate their historical materials to the government and ensured the preservation of presidential papers and their availability to the people of the United States. Under this and subsequent acts, nine more libraries have been established. In each case, private and non-federal public sources provided the funds to build the library. Once completed, the private organization turned over the libraries to the National Archives and Records Administration to operate and maintain.

Until 1978, presidents, scholars, and legal professionals held the view dating back to George Washington that the records created by the president or his staff while in office remained the personal property of the president and were his to take with him when he left office. The first presidential libraries were built on this concept. NARA successfully persuaded presidents to donate their historical materials to the federal government for housing in a presidential library managed by NARA.

Presidential Records Act of 1978

The Presidential Records Act of 1978 established that the presidential records that document the constitutional, statutory, and ceremonial duties of the president are the property of the United States Government. After the president leaves office, the Archivist of the United States assumes custody of the records. The Act allowed for the continuation of presidential libraries as the repository for presidential records.

Presidential Libraries Act of 1986

The Presidential Libraries Act of 1986[18] made additional changes to presidential libraries, requiring private endowments linked to the size of the facility. NARA uses these endowments to offset a portion of the maintenance costs for the library.

Presidential Historical Records Preservation Act of 2008

The Presidential Historical Records Preservation Act of 2008 amended 44 U.S.C. § 2504 to authorize grants for Presidential Centers of Historical Excellence.

Holdings

The thirteen presidential libraries maintain over 400 million pages of textual materials; nearly ten million photographs; over 15 million feet (5,000 km) of motion picture film; nearly 100,000 hours of disc, audiotape, and videotape recordings; and approximately half a million museum objects. These varied holdings make each library a valuable source of information and a center for research on the Presidency.

The most important textual materials in each library are those created by the president and his staff in the course of performing the official duties. Libraries also house numerous objects including family heirlooms, items collected by the president and his family, campaign memorabilia, awards, and the many gifts given to the president by American citizens and foreign dignitaries. These gifts range in type from homemade items to valuable works of art. Curators in presidential libraries and in other museums throughout the country draw upon these collections for historical exhibits.

Other significant holdings include the personal papers and historical materials donated by individuals associated with the president. These individuals may include Cabinet officials, envoys to foreign governments, political party associates, and the president's family and personal friends. Several libraries have undertaken oral history programs that have produced tape-recorded memoirs. A third body of materials comprises the papers accumulated by the president prior to, and following, his Presidency. Such collections include documents relating to Theodore Roosevelt's tenure as Governor of New York and Dwight D. Eisenhower's long military career.

With the exception of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and (upon his own death) Jimmy Carter, every American president since Hoover is or has chosen to be buried at their presidential library. Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery; Johnson is buried at his ranch in the hill country of Texas, west of Austin; Carter plans to be buried near his home in Plains, Georgia.[19] Bill Clinton will be buried at the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock. George W. Bush will be buried at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. The future burial sites of 44th president Barack Obama, 45th president Donald Trump, and 46th president Joe Biden are still unknown.

Unlike all other presidents whose libraries are part of the NARA system, Ford's library and museum are geographically separate buildings, located in different parts of Michigan; Ford is buried at his museum in Grand Rapids, while the library is in Ann Arbor.

List of presidential libraries

This is a list of the presidential libraries.

  Denotes libraries outside the NARA Presidential Library Office (only one administration post Hoover operates outside of NARA).
  Denotes presidential sites without libraries.
  Denotes library without presidential site.
# President Library name Location Operated by Image Logo/website
1 George Washington Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon[20]
Opened to public September 27, 2013
Mount Vernon, Virginia Mount Vernon Ladies' Association
website
2 John Adams Stone Library at Adams National Historical Park
Opened to public 1870
Quincy, Massachusetts National Park Service (NPS)
website
3 Thomas Jefferson Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello
Opened to public 1994
Charlottesville, Virginia Thomas Jefferson Foundation
website
4 James Madison The Papers of James Madison at Alderman Library
Opened in 1937, the Papers of James Madison went digital, 28 April 2010.
Charlottesville, Virginia University of Virginia
Montpelier
4 Montpelier
Opened to public 1984
Montpelier Station, Virginia National Trust for Historic Preservation
Montpelier
James Madison Museum
Opened to public 2013
Orange, Virginia James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation
museum
5 James Monroe James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library
Opened to public 1966
Fredericksburg, Virginia University of Mary Washington
website
5 Highland
Opened to public 1931
Simeon, Virginia College of William and Mary
website
6 John Quincy Adams Stone Library at Adams National Historical Park
Opened to public 1870
Quincy, Massachusetts NPS
website
7 Andrew Jackson The Papers of Andrew Jackson at Hoskins Library
Opened to public 1987
Knoxville, Tennessee University of Tennessee at Knoxville website
7 The Hermitage
Opened to public 1894
Nashville, Tennessee Andrew Jackson Foundation
website
8 Martin Van Buren Martin Van Buren National Historic Site
Opened to public October 26, 1974
Kinderhook, New York NPS
website
9 William Henry Harrison Berkeley Plantation
Opened to public 1940s
Charles City, Virginia Berkeley Plantation
website
10 John Tyler Sherwood Forest Plantation
Opened to public 1970s
Charles City, Virginia Sherwood Forest Plantation Foundation
website
11 James K. Polk President James K. Polk Home & Museum
Opened to public 1929
Columbia, Tennessee James K. Polk Memorial Association
website
12 Zachary Taylor Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
Opened to public 1928
Louisville, Kentucky National Cemetery Administration
website
13 Millard Fillmore Millard Fillmore House
Opened to public 1975
East Aurora, New York Aurora Historical Society
website
14 Franklin Pierce Franklin Pierce Homestead
Opened to public 1920s
Hillsborough, New Hampshire State of New Hampshire
website
15 James Buchanan James Buchanan papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Gift of the Buchanan family; transferred to the Historical Society, c. 1895–1897
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Historical Society of Pennsylvania
website
15 Wheatland (James Buchanan House)
Opened to public 1930s
Lancaster, Pennsylvania James Buchanan Foundation
website
16 Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Opened to public in 2004[21]
Springfield, Illinois State of Illinois
website
17 Andrew Johnson President Andrew Johnson Museum and Library
Opened to public 1993
Tusculum, Tennessee Tusculum College
website
17 Andrew Johnson National Historic Site
Opened to public 1993
Greeneville, Tennessee NPS
website
18 Ulysses S. Grant Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library
Opened to public October 15, 1966
Starkville, Mississippi Mississippi State University Library
and
Ulysses S. Grant Association
website
18 Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
Opened to public 1989
Grantwood Village, Missouri NPS
website
19 Rutherford B. Hayes Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center
Opened to public 1916
Fremont, Ohio Ohio Historical Society
and
Hayes Presidential Center, Inc.
website
20 James A. Garfield James A. Garfield National Historic Site
Opened to public 1998
Mentor, Ohio NPS
and
Western Reserve Historical Society
website
21 Chester A. Arthur Chester Alan Arthur State Historic Site
Opened to public 1950s
Fairfield, Vermont Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development
website
22 and 24 Grover Cleveland Grover Cleveland Birthplace
Opened to public March 18, 1913
Caldwell, New Jersey New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry and Grover Cleveland Birthplace Memorial Association
website
22 and 24 Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Opened to public October 16, 1976
Princeton, New Jersey Princeton University
website
23 Benjamin Harrison Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
Opened to public 1970s
Indianapolis, Indiana Arthur Jordan Foundation
website
25 William McKinley William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum
Memorial/Gravesite opened to the public September 1907
Canton, Ohio Stark County Historical Society
website
26 Theodore Roosevelt Houghton Library
Collection donated in 1943
Cambridge, Massachusetts Harvard University
website
26 The Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University
Launched in 2009
Dickinson, ND Dickinson State University website
26 Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site
Opened to public 1923
Manhattan, New York City, New York NPS
website
27 William Howard Taft William Howard Taft National Historic Site
Opened to public 1970s
Cincinnati, Ohio NPS
website
28 Woodrow Wilson Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library
Opened to the public in 1990
Staunton, Virginia Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Foundation
website
28 Woodrow Wilson Center
Chartered by Congress in 1968
Washington, DC Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Foundation
website
28 Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Opened to public October 16, 1976
Princeton, New Jersey Princeton University
website
29 Warren G. Harding Warren G. Harding Home & Memorial
Opened to the public in February 1926
Marion, Ohio Ohio History Connection
website
29 Warren G. Harding Presidential Center
Opened to the public on May 12, 2021[9]
Ohio History Connection website
30 Calvin Coolidge Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum
Opened to the public in 1956
Northampton, Massachusetts Forbes Library
website
30 President Calvin Coolidge State Historical Site
Opened to the public in 1957
Plymouth Notch, Vermont State of Vermont
website
31 Herbert Hoover Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
Dedication August 10, 1962
Rededicated August 8, 1992
West Branch, Iowa National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

website
32 Franklin D. Roosevelt Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Dedicated June 30, 1941
Rededicated June 30, 2013
Hyde Park, New York NARA

website
33 Harry S. Truman Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum
Dedicated on July 6, 1957
Rededicated December 9, 2001
Independence, Missouri NARA

website
34 Dwight D. Eisenhower Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home
Dedicated on May 1, 1962
Rededicated on October 7, 2019
Abilene, Kansas NARA

website
35 John F. Kennedy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Dedicated on October 20, 1979
Rededicated October 29, 1993
Boston, Massachusetts NARA

website
36 Lyndon B. Johnson Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
Dedicated on May 22, 1971
Austin, Texas NARA
and
The University of Texas at Austin

website
37 Richard Nixon Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
Dedicated on July 19, 1990
Rededicated October 14, 2016
Yorba Linda, California NARA and
Richard Nixon Foundation

website
38 Gerald Ford Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
Dedicated on September 18, 1981
Rededicated April 17, 1997
Grand Rapids, Michigan NARA
   

      website
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library
Dedicated on April 27, 1981
Ann Arbor, Michigan
39 Jimmy Carter Jimmy Carter Library and Museum
Dedicated on October 1, 1986
Atlanta, Georgia NARA

website
40 Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Dedicated on November 4, 1991
Simi Valley, California NARA

website
41 George H. W. Bush George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
Dedicated on November 6, 1997
College Station, Texas NARA
and
Texas A&M University

website
42 Bill Clinton William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park
Dedicated on November 18, 2004
Little Rock, Arkansas NARA

website
43 George W. Bush George W. Bush Presidential Center
Dedicated on April 25, 2013
Dallas, Texas NARA
and
Southern Methodist University

website
44 Barack Obama Barack Obama Presidential Library Digital only NARA website
44 Barack Obama Presidential Center
Scheduled to open in the early 2020s
Chicago, Illinois[22] Obama Foundation[23] and the University of Chicago[24]

website
45 Donald Trump Donald J. Trump Presidential Library
Early planning, no opening scheduled so far.
Florida[25] NARA

website

Locations of other presidents' papers

Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson left their papers to Princeton University where they may be found at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. The Theodore Roosevelt Association collected Theodore Roosevelt's papers and donated them to Harvard University in 1943, where they reside at its Widener and Houghton libraries.[26]

James Buchanan left his papers to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where they may still be found. The Papers of Andrew Jackson is a project sponsored by the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to collect Andrew Jackson's papers on microfilm.[27] A microfilm edition of Martin Van Buren's papers was produced at Pennsylvania State University in 1987; a digital edition of the Papers of Martin Van Buren is being produced at Cumberland University.[28] A similar project is underway on behalf of James Madison by the Universities of Virginia and Chicago.

For many presidents, especially before the development of the NARA system, substantial collections may be found in multiple private and public collections.[29] Until the Obama Administration's library is ready for service, its papers are being held in a facility in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, and are not available to the public as they are classified.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ NARA and the Obama Foundation are partnering in a new model, digitizing the Obama presidential records but not creating a new NARA facility.[2]

References

  1. ^ "Information About New Model for Obama Presidential Library". National Archives. February 25, 2019. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  2. ^ Clark, Anthony (May 7, 2017). "Presidential Libraries Are a Scam. Could Obama Change That?". Politico Magazine. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
  3. ^ "Nixon Library Updates". Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  4. ^ "National Archives Names Director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum" (Press release). National Archives and Records Administration. July 11, 2007. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  5. ^ "The National Archives Opens Federal Nixon Library, Releases Previously-Restricted Documents and Tapes" (Press release). National Archives and Records Administration. July 11, 2007. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  6. ^ "MSU joins exclusive list as presidential library host" (Press release). Mississippi State University. May 17, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  7. ^ "Collection Overview". Ulysses S. Grant Association. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  8. ^ "Legislative Assembly awards funding for creation of TR Library" (Press release). Theodore Roosevelt Center. May 2, 2013. Archived from the original on October 7, 2013. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  9. ^ a b "7.3M Harding Presidential Center opens in 2020". The Marion Star. April 12, 2016.
  10. ^ Caputo, Blair Kamin, Katherine Skiba, Angela. "Obama Presidential Center breaks from National Archives model". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  11. ^ "National Archives Announces a New Model for the Preservation and Accessibility of Presidential Records". National Archives. May 3, 2017. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
  12. ^ Bowean, Lolly (September 18, 2018). "New legislation outlines terms of Obama center's use of Jackson Park". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  13. ^ Blakley, Derrick (September 18, 2018). "City Breaks Promises Regarding Jackson Park, Obama Presidential Center". CBS Chicago. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Gunther, John (1950). Roosevelt in Retrospect. Harper & Brothers. pp. 99–100.
  15. ^ "Presidential Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved January 2, 2012.
  16. ^ "History Associates Assists With Content Development for New Exhibit at Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum" (Press release). History Associates. September 27, 2013. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
  17. ^ "Presidential Libraries Act of 1955". National Archives. August 15, 2016.
  18. ^ "Presidential Libraries Act of 1986". National Archives. August 15, 2016.
  19. ^ Minor, Elliot (January 10, 2007). "Carter's Hometown Happy with Burial Plan". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  20. ^ O'Brien, Caitlin (April 14, 2011). "Mount Vernon Getting New Library". WRC-TV News. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  21. ^ "Museum History". Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Archived from the original on August 7, 2017. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  22. ^ Lutz, BJ (April 30, 2015). "Chicago to Get Obama Presidential Library". WMAQ-TV News. Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  23. ^ Clark, Anthony (January 8, 2017). "Obama Foundation Changes Presidential Libraries – Perhaps Forever". medium.com. Retrieved June 3, 2017. [I]t seems quite certain that the Obama Foundation anticipates keeping and operating both the foundation space as well as the museum on its own ...
  24. ^ Julie Bosman & Mitch Smith, Chicago Wins Bid to Host Obama Library, New York Times, May 12, 2015.
  25. ^ Rucker, Philip; Dawsey, Josh; Parker, Ashley (January 16, 2021). "Trump to flee Washington and seek rehabilitation in a MAGA oasis: Florida". The Washington Post.
  26. ^ "TR Center – Harvard College Library". www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org. Retrieved January 23, 2021.
  27. ^ "About the Project | The Papers of Andrew Jackson". Retrieved January 23, 2021.
  28. ^ "Papers of Martin Van Buren". Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  29. ^ Montgomery, Bruce P. “Presidential Materials: Politics and the Presidential Records Act.” The American Archivist, vol. 66, no. 1, 2003, pp. 102–138.