Spotlight on Presidential Libraries

By Koerwer, Scott | Information Today, June 2007 | Go to article overview

Spotlight on Presidential Libraries


Koerwer, Scott, Information Today


The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), originally named the National Archives Establishment and created by Congress in 1934, is in charge of collecting and organizing federal records, a job previously left to the individual agencies of the government. In 1939, Franklin DeIano Roosevelt set aside a portion of his estate in Hyde Park, N.Y., to build a library that would house his presidential papers, which he later donated to the federal government. This formally launched the Presidential Library system, which the NARA now also operates.

In 1955, Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act, which called for privately built but federally maintained presidential libraries and encouraged presidents to donate their private and presidential papers to them. Since then, the NARA has maintained 11 presidential libraries that span from Herbert Hoover to Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon's library in Yorba Linda, Calif., has been privately operated since its opening in 1990, but it will also become a part of the NARA later this year.

Six other presidents also have presidential libraries across the nation, four of which are operated by private organizations. The other two are the John Quincy Adams library operated by the National Park Service and the Abraham Lincoln library operated by the state of Illinois.

Here is a list of the presidential libraries:

John Quincy Adams

Stone Library at Adams National Park in Quincy, Mass.

Built on land that was the birthplace and residence for five generations of the Adams family, the Stone Library is the first presidential library ever built. It was opened in 1870.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.

In 2-plus years since opening in April 2005, the museum has seen more than 1 million visitors, making it the most visited presidential library.

Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio

Built on the Spiegel Grove estate that is home to several generations of the Hayes family, the center is operated by the Ohio Historical Society and the Hayes Presidential Center, Inc.

William McKinley

McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in Canton, Ohio

The Stark County Historical Society operates McKinley's library, which opened in 1907.

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, Va.

The library, operated by the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Foundation, was built in 1990 on a renovated section of the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace Foundation, established in 1938.

Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum in Northampton, Mass.

Built in the town where he served as mayor from 1910 to 1912, Coolidge's library is run by Forbes Library and was officially opened in 1956 at the request of Coolidge's wife.

The following presidential libraries are operated by the NARA:

Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa

President and Mrs. …

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