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In 1939 the Presidential Library system began thanks to President Franklin D. Roosevelt after he donated all of his presidential papers to the Federal Government to keep. President Roosevelt also donated part of his Hyde Park estate to the United States to use. Along with the donation of Hyde Park, President Roosevelt’s friends created a non-profit corporation to raise money to create a library in Roosevelt’s name. Roosevelt donated his papers because he believed that Presidential papers should be a part of the nation’s history and should be accessible to the American people. Roosevelt requested that the National Archives use his papers and other belongings and put them in his Presidential Library. Although Roosevelt established the idea of Presidential libraries, Herbert Hoover also has a library since there was enough on file to put in his own library.
Prior to Presidential Libraries, Presidents would throw their Presidential papers out at the conclusion of their administration. Since Presidents did not archive their papers, majority of Presidential papers of Presidents before Roosevelt were lost or destroyed. Truman also pushed Congress to pass the Presidential Libraries Act in 1955 which created an official system of federal libraries. The Presidential Libraries Act motivated future Presidents to archive their papers and create their own libraries. Congress later passed the Presidential Records Act of 1978 which declared all Presidential records that “document the constitutional, statutory, and ceremonial duties of the President” property of the United States Government. Following the end of a President’s administration, all records become custody of the United States Archivist. These laws have led to a total of thirteen Presidential Libraries.
Each Presidential Library is located in a different place. Each President gets his own library. The location of each library is decided by the President. the Archivist of the United States, and some input of friends and family of the President. There are also often various proposals given by communities or universities who would like to host the library. Presidents often want their library in their hometown, however some Presidents have chosen to have their library on a university campus. The President and or his associates choose the architect along with a design team to construct the library, however the NARA provides certain standards to be followed.
Presidential Libraries contain Presidential documents such as paperwork, personal writings, photographs, audio and film, books, biographies, manuscripts, and anything else donated to the library pertaining to that specific President. Presidential Libraries and all of their inside features are completely accessible to the public. Each library has specific visiting hours and some libraries have museums as well. Most if not all of the libraries also have online archives and special digital features. Some of the Presidential Libraries also have museums along with them. The museums are usually on the same property as the library. Presidential Museums hold artifacts such as pieces of clothing, calendars of the president, and other things that belonged to that specific President.
The biggest Presidential Library and museum is that of John F. Kennedy. The library of JFK includes permanent exhibits, special exhibits, museum artifacts, online and in person interactive features. Past exhibits are also available online. Although it is JFK’s library, there is a section dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy’s dedicated restoration of the White House.
The Presidential Library of JFK also has on sight research opportunities within its resources. The Presidential library of JFK also provides grants and scholarships to the American public.
The Presidential Library of JFK is quite interesting due to his assassination, Along with his Presidential papers, there are also documents and exhibits explaining the day of his assassination and what came after. There are also parts of the library pertaining to his family and what they went through after his assassination.
Another interesting library is that of President George W. Bush because he was in office during the attacks on September 11, 2001. This library is interesting because it includes all of the documents, videos, pictures, audio recordings, and paperwork regarding the 9/11 attacks. Along with 9/11 documents, the library includes the traditional documents, pictures, biographies, etc. of George W. Bush.
The creation of Presidential Libraries was a great idea on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s part. Archiving presidential documents and belongings is a hands on way to learn about the history of the American Presidency. The American Presidency is unlike any other leadership position in the world. Presidential Libraries are also a great resource to research and learn about what happened in the country and the legislation during that specific Presidency. Presidential Libraries conserve parts of American History that should not be forgotten.
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