National Archives Presidential Libraries
The Presidential Library System
"Tokens and Treasures" highlights the museum
collections of a little-known national treasurethe Presidential
Library System. Administered by the National Archives and Records
Administration, the Presidential Library System holds the papers
and historical materials of the most recent American Presidents,
from Herbert Hoover through William J. Clinton. With more than
269 million pages of textual materials, 5 million photographs,
14 million feet of motion picture film, and 78,000 hours of audio
and video recordings, the Presidential libraries are a gold mine
of historical information. They are also home to hundreds of thousands
of Presidential giftsthe inspiration for "Tokens and Treasures."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the
library system in 1939 when he donated his personal and Presidential
papers to the federal government. He also donated a portion of
his family estate at Hyde Park, New York, for the construction
of a building that would serve as both a repository for his papers
and a research institution. Roosevelt firmly believed that in
a free society, the official records of a Presidency should be
open to public scrutiny and accessible for historical study. FDR
asked the National Archives, which preserves the government's
most important documents, to administer his library.
With the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955,
other Presidents followed Roosevelt's example and established
libraries. This tradition vastly improved the fate of Presidential
papers. Because a President's official documents were originally
considered his personal property, pre-Hoover Presidential records
were often scattered, split among public and private institutions
across the country. Some suffered damage; some were lost or destroyed.
The Presidential Library System ensures safe storage, the consolidation
of entire collections, and ready access for researchers. When
the 1978 Presidential Records Act made Presidential papers the
property of the U.S. government, the library system was already
in place to provide for the records' preservation.
The Presidential libraries are constructed
with private funds and, once completed, turned over to the National
Archives for operation and maintenance. Today the system includes
ten libraries and two Presidential materials projects. The Clinton
Presidential Materials Project will become the William J. Clinton
Presidential Center, which will include the Clinton Presidential
Library when it opens in 2006. President Nixon's papers are maintained
and available for research at the Nixon Presidential Materials
Project at the National Archives facility at College Park, Maryland.
A library for President Clinton is in the planning stages.
Located in the Presidents' home states, the
National Archives' Presidential libraries are a nationwide resource.
They offer ready access to essential evidence of the national
experience through their research facilities, educational programs,
and exhibits--including their own displays of Presidential gifts.
We invite you to visit each of them to learn about the Presidents,
the office of the Presidency, and the open system of government
that makes the libraries' existence possible.