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LIBRARIES, PRESIDENTIAL. Established to concentrate archival materials relating to individual U.S. presidents and to collect pertinent artifacts for research and public viewing, the presidential libraries have become significant archival repositories and museums. Most presidential libraries are federally and privately funded and are operated by the National Archives and Records Administration

(NARA). Two are not part of NARA: the Rutherford B. Hayes Library and Museum in Fremont, Ohio, and the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California. Established in 1916 the Hayes Library is the oldest presidential library and receives some funding from the state of Ohio. The Nixon Library, opened in 1992, operates largely as a museum because of legal disputes over the custody of Nixon's presidential records. Since passage of the 1974 Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, Nixon's presidential papers have been processed and housed by NARA, which began to open them to the public in 1987, under the name Nixon Presidential Materials Project.

In 1939 Congress authorized the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York, thus making it the first federally administered presidential library. The land and the initial building were privately donated. Roosevelt deeded his official records, personal papers, and many artifacts, which the government agreed to maintain, along with the library structure, for research and museum purposes. The Roosevelt Library opened to the public in 1941. Fund-raising for Harry S. Truman's library began before Truman left office in 1953. Efforts also soon began to establish a library for the new president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The National Archives consequently sought legislation to regularize the creation of presidential libraries. In 1955 Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act, allowing the government to accept historical materials, donated land, and buildings for the establishment of presidential libraries and to maintain and operate them. The Truman Library opened in Independence, Missouri, in 1957, and the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas, in 1962. Similar institutions have been created in the names of Herbert Hoover in West Branch, Iowa; John F. Kennedy in Boston; Lyndon B. Johnson in Austin, Texas; Gerald R. Ford in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Michigan; Jimmy Carter in Atlanta, Georgia; Ronald Reagan in Simi Valley, California; and George Bush in College Station, Texas. William Clinton's library will be in Little Rock, Arkansas. Since passage of the 1978 Presidential Records Act, no president can claim private ownership of his papers, but he can restrict access to them for up to twelve years, after which they can be subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act.

In 1992 the federal presidential libraries had in their custody 218 million pages of records and papers and 263,000 artifacts. That year the libraries had 1,534,281 visitors and, with the Nixon records in federal custody, attracted 13,409 daily research visits and 55,906 written and oral inquiries. The availability of such holdings has increased the quantity and quality of research connected with recent presidents and served as a valuable instrument of public education. Private support organizations affiliated with the libraries have also financed conferences, research grants, publications, lectures, and other program aspects of the presidential libraries.


McCoy, Donald R. The National Archives: America's Ministry of Documents, 1934–1968. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978.

Schick, Frank L., Renee Schick, and Mark Carroll. Records of the Presidency: Presidential Papers and Libraries from Washington to Reagan. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1989.

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Annual Report for the Year Ended September 30, 1992. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1993.

Veit, Fritz. Presidential Libraries and Collections. New York: Greenwood, 1987.

Donald R.McCoy/f. h.

See alsoArchives ; Federal Agencies ; Libraries ; Watergate .

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