Given that the American presidency has been nigh-on-inescapable since the summer in the lead-up to today’s election, it seems only fitting to do a post about one of the most visible post-presidency legacies – the Presidential Library.
Although Thomas Jefferson’s library formed the basis for the Library of Congress, the idea of the Presidential Library is a relatively recent creation. It is the brainchild of FDR, who had felt that the standards of preservation for presidents had traditionally been shoddy at best, negligent at worst. FDR’s papers were turned over to the National Archives for preservation, but it was actually Harry Truman that led the charge for the establishment of the Presidential Libraries Act, which governs the establishment and maintenance of these libraries.
As a result of these actions, every American president since Hoover has been honoured with his own library. The funding for the building of the libraries is raised through private funds (although I suspect a President Romney would pay for his own!), and then turned over to the National Archives to run and maintain the libraries, which also typically act as archives and museums (and, in the case of Hoover, a mausoleum).
The Archives also runs a nice site that contains a wealth of information on the Presidential Libraries, which can be found here. Not surprisingly, each library has a web site, although they can vary in quality. Gerald Ford, in death as in life, gets something of a short shrift, as does Jimmy Carter. Conversely, befitting his nickname, Bill Clinton’s is quite slick, as is Dubya’s. They’re all a fun and interesting way to while away a bit of time when waiting for the returns to come in tonight. Enjoy!