Presidential Libraries and Museums

Presidential Libraries Act of 1955

Donated Historical Materials are covered by the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955.

In 1955, Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act (PLA), the PLA established 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.

The Presidential Libraries Act of 1955
(44 U.S.C. 2112)

§ 2108. Presidential archival depository
(a) When the Administrator of General Services considers it to be in the public interest he may accept, for and in the name of the United States, land, buildings, and equipment offered as a gift to the United States for the purposes of creating a Presidential archival depository, and take title to the land, buildings, and equipment on behalf of the United States, and maintain, operate, and protect them as a Presidential archival depository, and as part of the national archives system; and make agreements, upon terms and conditions he considers proper, with a State, political subdivision, university, institution of higher learning, institute, or foundation to use as a Presidential archival depository land, buildings, and equipment of the State, subdivision, university, or other organization, to be made available by it without transfer of title to the United States, and maintain, operate, and protect the depository as a part of the national archives system.

The Administrator shall submit a report in writing on a proposed Presidential archival depository to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and include-a description of the land, buildings, and equipment offered as a gift or to be made available without transfer of title; a statement of the terms of the proposed agreement, if any; a general description of the types of papers; documents, or other historical materials proposed to be deposited in the Presidential archival depository so to be created, and of the terms of the proposed deposit; an estimate of the annual cost to the United States of maintaining, operating, and protecting the depository.

The Administrator may not take title to land, buildings, and equipment or make an agreement, until the expiration of the first period of 60 calendar days of continuous session of the Congress following the date on which the report is transmitted, computed as follows: Continuity of session is broken only by an adjournment sine die, but the days on which either House is not in session because of an adjournment of more than three days to a day certain are excluded.
(b) When the Administrator considers it to be in the public interest, he may deposit in a Presidential archival depository papers, documents, or other historical materials accepted under section 2107 of this title, or Federal records appropriate for preservation.
(c) When the Administrator considers it to be in the public interest, he may exercise, with respect to papers, documents, or other historical materials deposited under this section, or otherwise, in a Presidential archival depository, all the functions and responsibilities otherwise vested in him pertaining to Federal records or other documentary materials in his custody or under his control. The Administrator, in negotiating for the deposit of Presidential historical materials, shall take steps to secure to the Government as far as possible, the right to have continuous an permanent possession of the materials. Papers, documents, or other historical materials accepted and deposited under section 2107 of this title and this section are subject to restrictions as to their availability and use stated in writing by the donors or depositors or by persons legally qualified to act on their behalf. Subject to the restrictions, the Administrator may dispose by sale, exchange, or otherwise, of papers, documents, or other materials the Archivist determines to have no permanent value or historical interest or to be surplus to the needs of a Presidential archival depository. Only the first two sentences of this subsection shall apply to Presidential records as defined in section 2201(2) of this title.
(d) When the Administrator considers it to be in the public interest, he may cooperate with and assist a university, institution of higher learning, institute, foundation, or other organization or qualified individual to further or to conduct study or research in historical materials deposited in a Presidential archival depository.
(e) When the Administrator considers it to be in the public interest, he may charge and collect reasonable fees for the privilege of visiting and viewing exhibit rooms or museum space in a Presidential archival depository.
(f) When the Administrator considers it to be in the public interest, he may provide reasonable office space in a Presidential archival depository for the personal use of a former President of the United States.
(g) When the Administrator considers it to be in the public interest, he may accept gifts or bequests of money or other property for the purpose of maintaining, operating, protecting, or improving a Presidential archival depository. The proceeds of gifts or bequests, together with proceeds from fees or from sales of historical materials, copies or reproductions, catalogs, or other items, having to do with a Presidential archival depository, shall be paid into the National Archives Trust fund to be held, administered, and expanded for the benefit and in the interest of the presidential archival depository in connection with which they were received, including administrative and custodial expenses as the Administrator determines.

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

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