This is the part of my blog that does double duty for archival advocacy.
The recent election of Barack Obama has prompted many to wonder where his presidential library will be. Chicago of course wants the library but so does his birth state of Hawaii. Where should the Barack Hussein Obama Presidential Library reside? Who should pay for it? Your tax dollars or should we make Obama raise the money from private funders. Or a combination of both?
The 13 Presidential libraries are managed by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). I have had the privilege of working in one of them as an archival assistant and it was a great experience. Imagine having an entire library and museum dedicated to you and your career. However as lovely as the Presidential libraries are, they are quiet expensive to staff and maintain. This has led NARA to seek public suggestions for the “Development of Alternative Models for Presidential Libraries.”
The Presidential Historical Records Preservation Act of 2008 contains several provisions related
the the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and additional
provisions related to Presidential libraries and the system for archiving Presidential records.
Provisions of the Act Related to Presidential Libraries
The 2008 Act increased the amount of money that the former President’s foundation, which is
responsible for constructing a Presidential library, must transfer to the government to be used for
an endowment. Funds derived from the endowment are used to offset the annual cost of
operating and maintaining the Presidential library. The Act raised the endowment to 60 percent
of the cost of the library, and takes effect for libraries built after that of President George W.
Bush. The foundations that built the first Bush Library and the Clinton Library provided
endowments of 20 percent of the cost of the library, as will the foundation building the George
W. Bush Library.
The Act also requires the Archivist to submit to Congress a report that provides alternative
models for Presidential libraries that would “1) reduce the financial burden on the Federal
Government, 2) improve the preservation of presidential records, and 3) reduce the delay in
public access to all presidential records.”
Here you see the NARA explain the administrative and financial challenges of Presidential libraries: Cost, Preservation, and ACCESS.
Suggestions for Alternative Models for Presidential Libraries
NARA seeks the comments and suggestions of interested organizations and individuals for cost
effective ways of modifying the present system for archiving and providing public access to
For example, a single centralized depository may have some benefits for research across administrations; however, the context provided by a richer collection of historical materials and artifacts of a single administration may be lost. In another possible alternative, museums could be funded and operated by private organizations, with the National Archives managing and providing access to the Presidential records in a nearby NARA-operated archival facility. This would reduce operating costs and provide the context for a richer collection of historical materials on the life and administration of individual Presidents.
I strongly suggest that you consider sending comments to NARA on this matter as the future of Presidential libraries concerns your country’s history and YOUR TAX DOLLARS.
Have you ever visited a Presidential library? Ask yourself how do you envision a Presidential library. What comes to your mind? Should every guy elected to POTUS have one. Or should we place all of the Presidential records in one central location whch would save money?
You have until April 17th to submit comments to NARA.
Autographed Letter Signed (ALS),
10 April 2009