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Construction Began on the First Presidential Library in 1939

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Anniversary of the cornerstone being laid for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

Before the 20th century, presidential papers and records were generally the private property of the President, and many had been lost, sold, or ruined by bad storage conditions.

Seeking a better solution, President Roosevelt established and donated a public repository on his Hyde Park estate to house his documents and artifacts. He raised private funds for the facility, and then turned it over for operation by the United States Government through the National Archives. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum’s cornerstone was laid November 19,1939, and dedicated on June 30,1941.

In 1955, (amended in 1986), Congress enacted the Presidential Libraries Act, establishing a system of privately erected and federally maintained facilities for preserving historical materials of U.S. Presidents.

The Presidential Library system is a national network of 14 Presidential Libraries that are overseen by the Office of Presidential Libraries in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). When a President leaves office, NARA establishes a Presidential project until the library is built and transferred to the government. These are archives and repositories for preserving historical documents and artifacts of a President and administrations and making them available to the American people.

The presidential library system has historical material for every President of the United States from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush, and planned for Barack Obama; however there are other libraries and museums established for other presidents prior to Hoover that are not part of the NARA system, which are operated by private foundations, state governments, or historical societies. Unlike other Presidential Libraries, the Barack Obama Presidential Library will be a fully digital library. After the records are digitized, NARA will store and preserve the original materials in an existing NARA facility that meets NARA’s standards for archival storage.

Sources: NARA – Presidential Libraries and, What is a Presidential Library?

Related Publications


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44 U.S.C. 2112 - Presidential Libraries Act of 1955, Presidential archival depository

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69 Stat. 695 - Joint resolution to provide for the acceptance and maintenance of Presidential libraries, and for other purposes

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88 Stat. 1695 - Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act
Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA) of 1974 which applies only to the Nixon Presidential Materials, stipulates that those materials relevant to the understanding of Abuse of Governmental Power and Watergate are to be processed and released to the public prior to the release of all other materials.

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100 Stat. 495 - Former Presidents Facilities Reform Act (Presidential Libraries Act of 1986)

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122 Stat. 4281 - Presidential Historical Records Preservation Act of 2008

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DCPD-200900003 - Executive Order 13489-Presidential Records - Signed by President Obama on January 21, 2009, provides for further implementation of the Presidential Records Act.

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