November 8, 2007
National Archives Supports IG Audit of Presidential Libraries’ Artifacts
Washington, DC…In a statement issued on Thursday, November 8, 2007, Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein said:
“I welcome the Inspector General’s recommendations included in the ‘Audit of the Process of Safeguarding and Accounting for Presidential Library Artifacts’. This audit which was completed on October 26, 2007, examined the management of Presidential artifacts at six Presidential Libraries: The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, the John F. Kennedy Library, the Gerald R. Ford Library, the Ronald Reagan Library, the George Bush Library, and the William J. Clinton Library.
In the audit, the Office of the Inspector General recommended:
- An initial physical inventory should be conducted within a reasonable amount
of time with follow-up inventories on a recurring basis;
- Adding certain enhancements to the data base used by libraries for cataloguing
and managing their artifact collections to improve management controls;
- Developing policy and procedures for de-accessioning artifacts that do
not warrant continuing preservation;
- Identifying and ranking artifacts that are in need of preservation;
- Completion of a 100% inventory of the Reagan collection that would then be compared to the original White House Gift Unit data base. Also recommended improving internal controls for monitoring the artifact collection at the Reagan Library and the installation of appropriate storage media, such as shelving and cabinets designed to protect artifacts in case of a seismic event.
The National Archives encouraged the Inspector General’s office to perform this audit. These artifacts are a very important part of the preservation of our national heritage and I endorse the recommendations in the final report. For the past decade, we have been working to incorporate new technologies and greater management controls into the protocols at each of the libraries and have recruited trained professionals to manage today’s collections at the Presidential libraries.
Early collections of artifacts came to Presidential Libraries with few controls and incomplete information relating to the collections. Compounded by limited resources within the libraries, it has been difficult to complete 100% inventories on the more than 500,000 items that comprise the collections at all of the libraries. The Presidential libraries have sought to manage the risks through complete inventories of gifts from foreign heads of state and the establishment of annual reviews of valuable and vulnerable items.
The audit cites particular issues at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA. We acknowledge that problems exist in inventory control at the Reagan Library. The count of 100,000 artifacts was an estimate extrapolated from the original Reagan White House Gift Unit data base. The Gift Unit data included tens of thousands of items that were sent to charity, identified as consumables or otherwise not transferred to the National Archives. Many of the entries in the White House data base consisted of multiple objects, such as the tea cups and saucers, but were recorded as one item – a tea service. The Library used all of this information to make an educated estimate of the number of artifacts for determining storage space needs. This data was never intended to be used as a concrete inventory control number.
The Reagan Library has already begun implementing the Inspector General’s recommendations by creating a plan. To carry out this plan, the Library has upgraded its management inventory software, is hiring additional trained museum staff, has begun a 100% inventory, and is addressing the storage issues by working to purchase earthquake protection materials and re-shelving artifacts. Like all of the Presidential Libraries, the Reagan Library stores their gifts in a locked vault which is protected by a security camera.
Five of the twelve Presidential Libraries have now completed 100% inventories of their entire artifact collections. Presidential Libraries have worked within budget constraints to affect changes in artifact management and to contain risk. New procedures were established in 1998 to provide extensive controls over Presidential gifts given to sitting Presidents. These procedures, with modifications to incorporate new technologies, have been in place throughout the current Presidential administration. This will provide the National Archives with a full catalog of artifacts that will enable extensive management controls from the inception of the library. Additionally, all artifacts and gifts received from the White House by the Library’s curatorial unit are housed with appropriate care to ensure their physical security and preservation.
Changing from paper-based cataloging systems to specialized collections management data base systems are challenging to any museum. Populating these systems with data that reflects the full depth of the accumulated textual documentation on collections is a lengthy process. As part of our legacy cataloging projects at the libraries, we are working to resolve longstanding inventory issues stemming from inaccurate and unconfirmed records that existed at the time of transfer of the collections. Completion of these projects and a 100% inventory of our collections along with digital images of our high value items is a high priority for the National Archives.”
About The Presidential Libraries: The National Archives and Records Administration administers twelve Presidential Libraries, representing U.S. Presidents from Herbert Hoover through Bill Clinton. These are not libraries in the usual sense. They are archives and museums, preserving the written record and physical history of our Presidents, while providing special programs and exhibitions that serve their communities. The libraries are built with private money and then deeded over to the National Archives to be held in trust for the American people.
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For Press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.