Monday, December 7, 2009

Presidential Libraries

Fundraising and planning for the George W. Bush Presidential Library which will be located on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas is well underway. The way presidential libraries are now established and operated is dictated by federal law. The archives and artifacts of a president belong to the people of the United States and are administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The buildings that house these archives and artifacts are paid for by private funding. This was far from the case for earlier presidents. Up until 1978 the archives and artifacts of a president were considered to be the personal property of the president. As a result, these were often dispersed in many different locations. Fortunately, many of the papers of early presidents have been acquired by the Library of Congress. The first presidential library in which the archives and artifacts of a president were deliberately housed at a single location was what is now referred to as the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio. The story of how this came about is told here. The current presidential library system began in 1939 when Franklin D. Roosevelt donated his personal papers to the U.S. government to create the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. The story of how the presidential libraries under the administration of NARA developed is told here. In 2005 the United States Postal System issued a postage stamp to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 which established a system of privately funded and federally administered presidential libraries.

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