David S. Ferriero 2014-02-10 17:14:27
This spring, the National Archives and Records Administration will open its thirteenth presidential library—the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum—on the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. The library and museum for the forty-third president will be different from our other twelve libraries (Hoover through Clinton) in several ways. Its holdings chronicle one of the most important periods in recent U.S. history—a time when America was at war with terrorists. The Bush Library holds all the presidential papers relating to the first eight years of the war on terrorism, from the first attacks on September 11, 2001, through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eventually, historians, researchers, and the public will learn of the internal debates that occurred at the highest levels of government during the attacks and the subsequent deployment of U.S. troops to the Mideast. The Bush Library also will be the first presidential library to fully reflect the growth of government’s use of electronic records. A comparison with another twoterm president’s library illustrates this growth. While the Clinton Library holds only four terabytes of electronic records, the Bush Library houses eighty terabytes.And all eighty terabytes are stored in our Electronic Records Archives, which had been under development for years and went operational in the last year. To look at it another way, the Bush Library will preserve more than two hundred million emails, compared to the twenty million preserved at the Clinton Library. What’s In Store for the Space The 225,000-square-foot Bush Library on the SMU campus has been designed and built by the George W. Bush Foundation to blend in with the rest of the campus and to be energy efficient—it’s expected to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum status. The foundation will turn over about half the structure to NARA this spring. In this space, we will operate the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, led by NARA’s Alan Lowe and staffed by professionals hired through federal Civil Service. The foundation will use the rest of the facility for a variety of purposes, including the George W. Bush Institute, a policy center that focuses on the former president’s concerns in areas such as education and freedom. In addition, there will be public programming space and an auditorium. The Institute has already launched a number of programs: “Middle School Matters” seeks to improve the quality of middle school instruction, and “Circles of Excellence” seeks to find new ways to support members of our military. We expect the NARA staff to be active in education activities as well. And the library’s two classrooms will be central to the education program. One is a large, open classroom that can accommodate many students. The other is the actual conference room from the now-renovated White House Situation Room. Both have been reconstructed—the Situation Room’s conference area at the Bush Library and the other one, the so-called Command Room, at the Reagan Library. The hope is that students at both libraries can work together on simulations of actual crises. President and Mrs. Bush were involved in the building, museum, and landscape design, and the former president’s office has been working with our staff on access issues. The Bushes also have suggested topics, artifacts, and records for museum exhibits. Under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, a president’s records are not available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act until five years after he leaves office, or in this case January 20, 2014. In preparation for that date, the library staff is hard at work arranging, describing, and reviewing records and artifacts. * * * The presidential libraries are an important part of the National Archives. Last year, nearly two million people visited them in person and nearly sixteen million visited their websites. Research conducted at the libraries forms the foundation of countless books and articles that expand our understanding of the presidency and American history. We are pleased that this new library in Dallas will continue the tradition of serving the best interests of the public and history itself.
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