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Bush Library may be last brick and mortar presidential library

This story has been brewing for a few months, but I just recently came across it again and was intrigued. I may be getting into deep archival waters –the Society of American Archivists (PDF) and a letter of complaint signed by sixteen organizations (PDF) were both submitted in response to NARA’s call for alternative models of presidential libraries (more context here from Richard Cox). While you can probably guess that I’m in general agreement with Steven Aftergood that more online presidential resources would improve public access, the call for digitization neglects a fundamental aspect of presidential libraries. That is, these spaces do not only act as information repositories for researchers, but historical monuments. Let’s have better access to information but let’s not forget about history in the process. Thoughts?

Bush library may be one of last housed in a building. Laura Isensee. The Dallas Morning News. March 31, 2009

The George W. Bush Presidential Library in University Park could be one of the last brick and mortar institutions of its kind.

Congress is looking for ways to cut the expense of overseeing such buildings, and some researchers say the traditional library setup for keeping presidential documents is outdated in a digital world.

What to do? Use a cave to store vital paper records instead of big compounds. Get out of the museum business and let the president’s backers run that part of the library.

Those are some of the ideas being floated by federal archivists, who now are asking the public for suggestions to run the library system at less cost but with better access to presidential papers. The National Archives and Records Administration will deliver its report to Congress this summer.

Although the potential changes are not expected to affect the Bush complex at SMU or any of the other presidential libraries, the outcome could significantly alter how future ones operate.

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