This Presidents’ Day, explore an often overlooked cultural attraction—presidential libraries. Unlike traditional libraries filled with books, presidential libraries preserve the official documents and artifacts of U.S. presidents and feature exhibits for the pubic, so they are as much museums as libraries.
Prior to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, many presidential papers and records had been lost, destroyed, or sold for profit. In 1939, President Roosevelt began a tradition that continues today, raising private funds for a private repository and then turning it over to the U.S. government for operation through the National Archives.
There are currently 13 presidential libraries scattered across the country:
- The Hoover Library in West Branch, Iowa, features the birthplace cottage and gravesite of our 31st
- The FDR Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y., highlights the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II.
- The Truman Library in Independence, Mo., provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about Truman’s decisions regarding the atomic bomb, Communist aggression, and segregation in two interactive “Decision Theatres.”
- The Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kan., features Ike’s boyhood home.
- The John F. Kennedy Library, designed by I.M. Pei, sits on 9.5 acres on Boston’s waterfront.
- The Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas, is the only presidential library that does not charge admission.
- The Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif., features items collected by Vietnam POWs and the presidential helicopter used by presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.
- The Ford Presidential Library in Grand Rapids, Mich., features tools used in the Watergate break-in and a fascinating exhibit about the Nixon pardon.
- The Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., features more than 60 million documents and more than half a million feet of motion picture film.
- The Jimmy Carter Library in Athens, Ga., is where you will most likely spot a member of a former first family. President Carter and his wife Rosalynn spend a good deal of time on-site managing their foundation.
- The George H.W. Bush Library in College Station, Texas, features a WWII Avenger torpedo bomber and a large slab of the Berlin Wall.
- The William J. Clinton Library in Little Rock, Ark., is 20,000 square feet in size and houses more than 100,000 presidential gifts.
- The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is housed within the George W. Bush Presidential Center, located on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas. Museum exhibits include A Nation Under Attack, Life in the White House, the interactive Decision Points Theater, a full-size replica of the White House Oval Office, and the Situation Room Experience, which allows participants to assume key White House roles and manage a high-stakes national crisis.
For more information about the presidential libraries, click here.