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In the United Statesmarker, 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 Administrationmarker (NARA). These are not libraries in the modern sense, but rather repositories for preserving and making available the papers, records, collections and other historical materials of every President of the United States since Herbert Hoover.

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. 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.marker Clinton Presidential Librarymarker became the eleventh presidential library on November 18, 2004, and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museummarker became the twelfth on July 11, 2007.

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 Museummarker is owned and operated by the State of Illinoismarker.

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 Lindamarker. 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.


Before the advent of the Presidential library system, Presidents or their heirs often dispersed Presidential papers at the end of the administration. Though many pre-Hoover collections now reside in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congressmarker, 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, Lawnfieldmarker, in Mentor, OHmarker. James A. Garfield NHS is operated by the National Park Service and the Western Reserve Historical Society.

The Presidential library system formally began in 1939, when 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 Yorkmarker 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. In 1955 Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act, 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 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.

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.

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.

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 twelve 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 his own death, Jimmy Carter, every American president since Hoover is or has chosen to be buried at his presidential library. Kennedy is buried at Arlington National Cemeterymarker; Johnson is buried at his ranchmarker in the hill country of Texas, west of Austin; Carter plans to be buried near his home in Plains, Georgiamarker. Unlike all other Presidents whose libraries are part of the NARA system, Ford's librarymarker and museummarker are geographically separate buildings, located in different parts of Michiganmarker; Ford is buried at his museum in Grand Rapidsmarker instead of his library in Ann Arbormarker.

List of presidential libraries

This is a list of the presidential libraries.

# President Library name Location Operated By Image
6 John Quincy Adams Stone Library at Adams National Historical Parkmarker Quincy, Massachusettsmarker National Park Service
16 Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museummarker Springfield, Illinoismarker State of Illinoismarker
19 Rutherford Hayes Rutherford B.marker Hayes Presidential Centermarker Fremont, Ohiomarker Ohio Historical Society & Hayes Presidential Center, Inc.
25 William McKinley William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum Canton, Ohiomarker Stark Countymarker Historical Society
28 Woodrow Wilson Woodrow Wilson Presidential Librarymarker Staunton, Virginiamarker Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library Foundation
30 Calvin Coolidge Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum Northampton, Massachusettsmarker Forbes Library
31 Herbert Hoover Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museummarker West Branch, Iowamarker National Archives and Records Administration marker
32 Franklin D. Roosevelt Franklin D.marker Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museummarker Hyde Park, New Yorkmarker NARAmarker
33 Harry S. Truman Harry S.marker Truman Presidential Museum and Librarymarker Independence, Missourimarker NARAmarker
34 Dwight D. Eisenhower Dwight D.marker Eisenhower Presidential Librarymarker Abilene, Kansasmarker NARAmarker
35 John F. Kennedy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum marker Dorchester, Massachusettsmarker| NARAmarker
36 Lyndon B. Johnson Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museummarker Austin, Texasmarker NARAmarker and The University of Texas at Austinmarker
37 Richard Nixon Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museummarker Yorba Linda, Californiamarker NARAmarker
38 Gerald R. Ford Gerald R.marker Ford Museummarker; Gerald R.marker Ford Presidential Librarymarker Grand Rapids, Michiganmarker; Ann Arbor, Michiganmarker NARAmarker

39 Jimmy Carter Jimmy Carter Library and Museummarker Atlanta, Georgiamarker NARAmarker
40 Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan Presidential Librarymarker Simi Valley, Californiamarker NARAmarker
41 George H. W. Bush George Bush Presidential Library & Museummarker College Station, Texasmarker NARAmarker
42 Bill Clinton William J.marker Clinton Presidential Center and Parkmarker Little Rock, Arkansasmarker NARAmarker
43 George W. Bush George W. Bush Presidential Center University Park, Texasmarker George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation (construction)
NARAmarker (operation)

See also


  • Portions of this article based on public domain text from the National Archives and Records Administration
  • Benjamin Hufbauer, "Presidential Temples: How Memorials and Libraries Shape Public Memory," Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006.

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