Many pre-Hoover collections have been dispersed across other libraries, historical societies and private collections. Much material has been lost or deliberately destroyed.
It’s official: Chicago will be the site of Barack Obama’s presidential library.
The library, to be built on the city’s developmentally and economically challenged South Side, is projected to attract 800,000 visitors a year, create 1,900 permanent new jobs, and generate $220 million in annual revenue, according to a 2014 University of Chicago study. In all, Time magazine reports, the presidential library’s construction would boost the Windy City’s economy by $600 million and create 3,280 new jobs.
Beginning with Herbert Hoover, there are 13 presidential libraries which are overseen by the Office of Presidential Libraries in the National Archives and Records Administration. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is overseen by the Illinois Historic Preservation agency, and is not affiliated with the National Archives’ network of presidential libraries.
Before the advent of the Presidential Library system, presidents or their heirs dispersed presidential papers at the conclusion of their administrations, according to the National Archives website. Many pre-Hoover collections are being preserved in the Library of Congress, but others have been dispersed across other libraries, historical societies and private collections. Much material has been lost or deliberately destroyed, the National Archives notes.
The network formally began in in 1939 with President Franklin Roosevelt, who donated his personal and presidential papers to the federal government. He also pledged a portion of his estate at Hyde Park to the United States. Friends of Roosevelt formed a non-profit corporation to raise funds for the construction of the library and museum building.
In 1950, Harry S. Truman galvanized congressional action after deciding that he would also build a presidential library to house his papers. Five years later, Congress passed the Presidential Libraries Act, which established the presidential library system.
Is there a presidential library financial bump? Anthony Clark, author of a book on presidential libraries, “The Last Campaign,” and a former senior aide in the U.S. House of Representatives focusing on oversight of the National Archives and presidential libraries, says not so much. “Library attendance, no matter which library…declines over time,” he told Marketwatch.
Don't discount the lure of the new. The presidential library devoted to George W. Bush attracted 490,887 visitors last year, according to figures supplied by the National Archives. The second most attended presidential library was Ronald Reagan's (383,470), followed by Bill Clinton's (333,897). The least attended presidential library was the one devoted to Herbert Hoover (43,085).
There are many factors that can weigh on attendance. The Eisenhower presidential library was visited by 186,317 people, compared with 296,004 for the presidential library devoted to John F. Kennedy. Part of this may be because Boston is more of a destination than Abilene, Ks.
Clark notes that the most –visited temporary exhibit at a presidential library was housed at the Ronald Reagan library. It was devoted to Disney’s archival treasures.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.