Presidential Libraries hold the raw materials of history: evidence of democracy at work and of the continuing relevance of the Presidents' past decisions.
The Archivist Discusses the Presidential Libraries
Learn about the Presidential Libraries
Presidential Libraries are not libraries in the usual sense. They are archives and museums, bringing together in one place the documents and artifacts of a President and his administration and presenting them to the public for study and discussion without regard for political considerations or affiliations. Presidential Libraries and Museums, like their holdings, belong to the American people.
During his second term in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt surveyed the vast quantities of papers and other materials he and his staff had accumulated. In the past, many Presidential papers and records had been lost, destroyed, sold for profit, or ruined by poor storage conditions. President Roosevelt sought a better alternative. On the advice of noted historians and scholars, he established a public repository to preserve the evidence of the Presidency for future generations. Beginning a tradition that continues to this day, he raised private funds for the new facility and then turned it over to the United States government for operation through the National Archives.
Congress legislated this policy, passing the Presidential Libraries Act in 1955 (amended in 1986). Through archives, museums, and public programs, Presidential Libraries continue to preserve the documents and artifacts of our Presidents, helping us learn about our nation and our democracy.