The recent announcement by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Barack Obama Foundation that there will be no Barack Obama Presidential Library has received very little attention or scrutiny. This essay examines that decision and places it in historical context based on the author’s expertise gained through years of working within NARA at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and writing about the early history of NARA and the presidential library system. The essay explores the many ways in which the failure to build an Obama Library adversely impacts researcher access to important historical information, damages the quality of museum exhibits at a privately run Obama museum, threatens the presidential library system as we know it, and ultimately impairs our democracy.
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Research Article| May 01 2018
In Defense of Presidential Libraries: Why the Failure to Build an Obama Library Is Bad for Democracy
Bob Clark is director of archives of the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow, New York. From 2001 to 2015, he served in various capacities at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, including as supervisory archivist, deputy director, and acting director. He is the chair of the New York State Historical Records Advisory Board and an adjunct professor in the University of Bridgeport’s College of Public and International Affairs.
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The Public Historian (2018) 40 (2): 96–103.
Bob Clark; In Defense of Presidential Libraries: Why the Failure to Build an Obama Library Is Bad for Democracy. The Public Historian 1 May 2018; 40 (2): 96–103. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2018.40.2.96
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