In the United States, the presidential library system is a nationwide network of 13 libraries administered by the Office of Presidential Libraries, which is part of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). These are repositories for preserving and making available the papers, records, collections and other historical materials of every President of the United States since Herbert Hoover (31st President, 1929-1933).
Although not officially sanctioned and maintained by NARA, libraries have been organized for several Presidents who preceded the official start of the Presidential Library Office.
Recent U.S. presidents have established presidential libraries in their home states in which documents, artifacts, gifts of state and museum exhibits are maintained that relate to the former president's life and career both political and professional. Each library also provides an active series of public programs. When a president leaves office, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) establishes a presidential materials project to house and index the documents until a new presidential library is built and transferred to the federal government. The William J. Clinton Presidential Library became the eleventh presidential library on November 18, 2004, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum became the twelfth on July 11, 2007, and the George W. Bush Presidential Center became the thirteenth on May 1, 2013.
The presidential library system is made up of thirteen presidential libraries operated by the NARA. Libraries and museums have been established for other presidents, but they are not part of the NARA presidential library system, and are operated by private foundations, historical societies, or state governments, including the William McKinley, Rutherford Hayes, Calvin Coolidge, Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson libraries. For example, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is owned and operated by the state of Illinois.
On April 30, 2013, both chambers of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly passed a bill appropriating $6 million to Dickinson State University to award a grant to the Theodore Roosevelt Center for construction of a building to be named the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. To access these funds, the Theodore Roosevelt Center must first raise $3 million from non-state sources. However, Harvard University has his papers and intends to keep them.
The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace was not originally part of the presidential library system. While the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff, which administers the Nixon presidential materials under the terms of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, is part of NARA, the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace was run by a private foundation. In January 2004, Congress passed legislation that provided for the establishment of a federally operated Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda. In March 2005, the Archivist of the United States and John Taylor, the director of the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation, exchanged letters on the requirements to allow the Nixon Library to become the twelfth federally funded Presidential library operated by the NARA by 2007. On October 16, 2006, Dr. Timothy Naftali began his tenure as the first federal director of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace, and in the winter of 2006 NARA began transferring the 30,000 presidential gifts from the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff in College Park, Maryland to Yorba Linda, California. On July 11, 2007, the Nixon Foundation deeded the Library and Birthplace to the government of the United States. On the same day, the newly renamed federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum officially opened.
Historically, all presidential papers were considered the personal property of the president. Some took them at the end of their terms, others destroyed them, and many papers were scattered. Though many pre-Hoover collections now reside in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, others are split among other libraries, historical societies, and private collections. However, many materials have been lost or deliberately destroyed.
Lucretia Rudolph Garfield, the wife of James A. Garfield, President from March 4, 1881 until his death on September 19, 1881, added a Memorial Library wing, four years after his assassination, to their family home, Lawnfield, in Mentor, OH. The James A. Garfield National Historic Site is operated by the National Park Service and the Western Reserve Historical Society.
In 1939 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt donated his personal and presidential papers to the federal government. At the same time, Roosevelt pledged part of his estate at Hyde Park, New York to the United States, and friends of the President formed a non-profit corporation to raise funds for the construction of the library and museum building. Roosevelt's decision stemmed from his belief that Presidential papers were an important part of the national heritage and should be accessible to the public. He asked the National Archives to take custody of his papers and other historical materials and to administer his library.
In 1950, Harry S. Truman decided that he, too, would build a library to house his Presidential papers and helped to galvanize congressional action.
Presidential Libraries Act of 1955
In 1955, Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 , establishing 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, nine more libraries have been established. In each case, funds from private and non-federal 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.
Until 1978, Presidents, scholars, and legal professionals held the view dating back to George Washington that the records created by the President or his staff while in office remained the personal property of the President and were his to take with him when he left office. The first Presidential libraries were built on this concept. NARA successfully persuaded Presidents to donate their historical materials to the federal government for housing in a Presidential library managed by NARA.
Presidential Records Act of 1978
The Presidential Records Act of 1978 established that the Presidential records that document the constitutional, statutory, and ceremonial duties of the President are the property of the United States Government. After the President leaves office, the Archivist of the United States assumes custody of the records. The Act allowed for the continuation of Presidential libraries as the repository for Presidential records.
Presidential Libraries Act of 1986
The Presidential Libraries Act of 1986  also made significant changes to Presidential libraries, requiring private endowments linked to the size of the facility. NARA uses these endowments to offset a portion of the maintenance costs for the library.
The thirteen Presidential Libraries maintain over 400 million pages of textual materials; nearly ten million photographs; over 15 million feet (5,000 km) of motion picture film; nearly 100,000 hours of disc, audiotape, and videotape recordings; and approximately half a million museum objects. These varied holdings make each library a valuable source of information and a center for research on the Presidency.
The most important textual materials in each library are those created by the President and his staff in the course of performing the official duties. Libraries also house numerous objects including family heirlooms, items collected by the President and his family, campaign memorabilia, awards, and the many gifts given to the President by American citizens and foreign dignitaries. These gifts range in type from homemade items to valuable works of art. Curators in Presidential libraries and in other museums throughout the country draw upon these collections for historical exhibits.
Other significant holdings include the personal papers and historical materials donated by individuals associated with the President. These individuals may include Cabinet officials, envoys to foreign governments, political party associates, and the President's family and personal friends. Several libraries have undertaken oral history programs that have produced tape-recorded memoirs. A third body of materials comprises the papers accumulated by the President prior to, and following, his Presidency. Such collections include documents relating to Roosevelt's tenure as Governor of New York and Dwight D. Eisenhower's long military career.
With the exception of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, and upon their own deaths, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, every American president since Hoover is or has chosen to be buried at his presidential library. Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemetery; Johnson is buried at his ranch in the hill country of Texas, west of Austin; Carter plans to be buried near his home in Plains, Georgia. George W. Bush has a burial plot in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas.
Unlike all other Presidents whose libraries are part of the NARA system, Ford's library and museum are geographically separate buildings, located in different parts of Michigan; Ford is buried at his museum in Grand Rapids instead of his library in Ann Arbor.
List of presidential libraries
This is a list of the presidential libraries.
Where other presidents' papers may be found.
Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson left their papers to Princeton University where they may be found at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. After the Theodore Roosevelt Association failed to get enough funds to start what would be the second presidential library after Rutherford Hayes', they donated his papers to Harvard University in 1943. These reside at its Houghton Library . James Buchanan left his papers to the Pennsylvania Historical Society in Philadelphia, where they may still be found. In the 1960s, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville endeavoured to collect all of Andrew Jackson's papers on Microfilm and the results are now available online. A similar project is being done on behalf of James Madison by the Universities of Virginia and Chicago.
- United States presidential memorials
- Jefferson Davis Presidential Library
- Churchill Archives Centre
- Vicente Fox Center of Studies, Library and Museum
- Dan Quayle Vice presidential Library and Museum
- [dead link]
- New Nixon Web Site
- National Archives Names Director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
- The National Archives Opens Federal Nixon Library, Releases Previously-Restricted Documents and Tapes
- Gunther, John (1950). Roosevelt in Retrospect. Harper & Brothers. pp. 99–100.
- "Presidential Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
- Carter hopes to be buried in hometown of Plains, Ga.
- George Walker Bush-Texas State Cemetery
- O'Brien, Caitlin (April 14, 2011). "Mount Vernon Getting New Library". NBC Washington. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
- Portions of this article based on public domain text from the National Archives and Records Administration
- Hufbauer, Benjamin (2006). Presidential Temples: How Memorials and Libraries Shape Public Memory. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.