Presidential Libraries are not libraries in the usual sense. They are archives and museums, bringing together in one place the documents and artifacts of a President and his Administration and presenting them to the public for study and discussion without regard for political considerations or affiliations. Presidential Libraries, like their holdings, belong to the American people.
A Unique Heritage (cont.)
During his second term in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt surveyed the vast quantities of papers and other materials he and his staff had accumulated. In the past, many Presidential papers and records had been lost, destroyed, sold for profit, or ruined by poor storage conditions.
President Roosevelt sought a better alternative. On the advice of noted historians and scholars, he established a public repository to preserve the evidence of the Presidency for future generations. Beginning a tradition that continues to this day, he raised private funds for the new facility and then turned it over to the United States Government for operation through the National Archives. In 1955, Congress institutionalized this policy through the Presidential Libraries Act, amended in 1986. Through archives, museums, and public programs, Presidential Libraries continue to preserve the documents and artifacts of our Presidents, helping us learn about our nation and our democracy.
Pages of American History
Every day the President and his staff generate thousands of documents providing insight into the issues confronting our nation. Presidential Libraries preserve not only these official records, but also the personal papers of Presidential family members, associates, and friends. Enriching these resources are dynamic audio and visual collections. The Libraries’ vast photographic, film, and video holdings capture the Presidents confronting key issues or relaxing with friends and family. Dramatic sound recordings let us listen to Presidents and their closest advisors debating turning points in our changing society. Together, these archival materials provide a comprehensive view of our Presidents and our history.
Pages of American History (cont.)
These diverse sources are the raw materials of history— evidence of democracy at work and of the continuing relevance of the Presidents’ past decisions in our own times. While a selection of these fascinating materials is on exhibit at Presidential Libraries, the vast majority of holdings are available through Library research rooms.
Artifacts bring us even closer to the Presidents and their times. Their lives become tangible through a cherished childhood toy, a favorite article of clothing, or a priceless gift from a foreign head of state. Each Presidential Library holds artifacts that illuminate the times in which our Presidents lived and the decisions they made throughout their lives. Whether sentimental or monumental, artifacts such as a handmade quilt from an expert needle crafter, entire slabs from the Berlin Wall, or the contents in the boyhood home where President Eisenhower spent his formative years make a visit to a Presidential Library a memorable experience.
Come and Experience History First Hand at a Presidential Library Museum
Artifacts on exhibit represent only a fraction of Library holdings. Behind the scenes, Libraries house more than 500,000 items, in all shapes and sizes, ranging from President Eisenhower’s World War II staff car at the Eisenhower Library to a set of 51 miniature silver musical instruments, given to the Nixon Administration from Indonesia, held at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
Be a Part of History
Presidential Libraries offer thought-provoking and entertaining permanent exhibits that combine documents and artifacts, photographs and film to immerse you in the sights and sounds of the past. The Libraries also present exciting special exhibits designed to showcase their holdings in fascinating new ways or to highlight distinctive aspects of history and culture with materials borrowed from museums around the world.
Be a Part of History (cont.)
Conferences, symposia, and public forums sponsored by the Libraries are another means of participating in Library life. These events highlight new scholar- ship about the Presidents, American history, and current events, and provide opportunities to hear First Family members, key Administration figures, and foreign heads of state discuss history, politics, and the world today.
Be a Part of History (cont.)
Beyond exhibits and formal programs, the Libraries host special events to commemorate uniquely American holidays, such as President’s Day and the Fourth of July. Storytellers and actors portraying our Presidents make it possible to hear George Washington discuss the nation’s earliest days or Abraham Lincoln contemplate the Civil War. Many Libraries celebrate the holiday season with elaborate decorations originally used at the White House. And each Library observes its President’s birthday with a special celebration.
Classrooms of Democracy
President Reagan described Presidential Libraries as “classrooms of democracy.” This could not be more accurate. Libraries provide a broad range of educational opportunities for students of all ages. Each Library offers pro- grams designed to introduce students to American history and the Presidency and to inform teachers about the use of primary source documents in teaching history.
Classrooms of Democracy (cont.)
Highlights of Library education activities include the Truman Library’s “White House Decision Center,” where students or adults study historical crises from the Truman Administration. At the Ford Museum, you will find a replica of the Cabinet Room, an interactive media experience allowing students and adults alike to use the West Wing’s famous conference room and original documents to role-play through many of the complex problems that faced the Ford Administration. The Eisenhower Library’s Five Star Leaders is a document-based, experiential learning program in which students in grades 8 – 12 confront a crisis related to the Eisenhower Administration and develop democratic leadership skills. These are only a sample of the many diverse and enriching education activities hosted at Presidential Libraries.
NARA’s Presidential Libraries
Presidential Libraries can be found across the country, from Massachusetts to California. Visit one soon, and give yourself and your family the opportunity to explore the history of our nation and the leaders who helped shape our society. Here is a chance to participate in your democracy.
A Vital Part of an Important Goal
Presidential Libraries are one component of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), our nation’s official record keeper. An independent agency created by statute in 1934, NARA carries out its mission through its Washington, DC offices as well as a nationwide network of regional archives and records facilities to ensure that the American public can access official documents pertaining to the rights of citizens, the actions of government, and the national experience.
A Vital Part of an Important Goal (cont.)
NARA also works to improve opportunities for visitors to learn about the vital documents in its care through the National Archives Experience, which includes The Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. The 290-seat William G. McGowan Theater, a new Learning Center, and the exciting new Public Vaults exhibit, featuring immersive and dynamic interactive exhibits, and hundreds of records from NARA’s holdings, await you as part of the National Archives experience in Washington, DC.