The National Archives administers the Presidential Libraries and Museums. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt donated his personal and Presidential papers to the federal government in 1939, it formally began the Presidential Library system. Roosevelt also donated part of his estate at Hyde Park to house the papers.
President Truman also left his papers and Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act in 1955. The Act established “a system of privately erected and federally maintained libraries. The Act encouraged other Presidents to donate their historical materials to the government and ensured the preservation of Presidential papers and their availability to the American people. Under this and subsequent acts, more libraries have been established. In each case, funds from private and nonfederal public sources provided the funds to build the library. Once completed, the private organization turned over the libraries to the National Archives and Records Administration to operate and maintain.”
Before Roosevelt, beginning with President Washington, “Presidents or their heirs often dispersed Presidential papers at the end of the administration. Though many pre-Hoover collections now reside in the Library of Congress, others are split among other libraries, historical societies, and private collections. Sadly, many materials have been lost or deliberately destroyed.”
The fourteen Presidential Libraries to date have both a physical and an online presence.
- Herbert Hoover Library
- Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
- Harry S. Truman Library
- Dwight D. Eisenhower Library
- John F. Kennedy Library
- Lyndon B. Johnson Library
- Richard Nixon Library
- Gerald R. Ford Library
- Jimmy Carter Library
- Ronald Reagan Library
- George Bush Library
- William J. Clinton Library
- George W. Bush Library
- Barack Obama Library
Many earlier Presidents have also had Presidential Libraries established over the years. George Washington wrote “I have not houses to build, except one, which I must erect for the accommodation and security of my military, civil and private papers, which are voluminous and may be interesting.” Although he never got such a house built, the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington opened on a 15-acre parcel across the street from Mount Vernon’s main entrance in 2013 and receives no federal funds.
Thomas Jefferson has a similar library maintained by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. The Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies was founded in 1994 “to foster Thomas Jefferson scholarship and disseminate findings through research and education. The Research Center Th ICJS include the 15,500 square foot Jefferson Library. Online resources include the Jefferson Encyclopedia. and the Jefferson Quotes database.
Have you ever been to a Presidential Library? Join in the conversation and share which one is your favorite. Which state has the most Presidential Libraries?