Remarks made by the Archivist 75th anniversary of the FDR Library
Hyde Park, New York
June 29, 2016
Who is the Archivist?
The Archivist of the United States is the head of our agency, appointed by the President of the United States.The AOTUS Blog
What's an Archivist?
Greetings from Washington! I'm honored to be here today to celebrate the 75th anniversary of this wonderful Library.
It is also an opportunity for me to thank Franklin D. Roosevelt for my job. On June 19, 1934, President Roosevelt signed the bill into law which established the National Archives and the position of Archivist of the United States.
The mission of the National Archives is to collect, protect, and preserve the records of the U.S. Government and make them available so that the American public can hold its government accountable and learn from our past. We are the final destination of the most important records of the United States Government.
Today, the collection has over 13 billion sheets of paper, 43 million photographs, miles and miles of video and film, and more than 5 billion electronic records—the fastest growing record form. These records start with the Oaths of Allegiance signed by George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge and go all the way up the Tweets that are being created in the White House as I speak. They include photos of Assistant Secretary of Navy Roosevelt walking in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Fireside Chats, a letter from a 12-year-old Fidel Castro asking for FDR to send him a 10-dollar green American, the Day of Infamy and Four Freedoms speeches, and all the New Deal legislation.
The National Archives administers the network of Presidential Libraries from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library was our first. We now have 13 libraries in total with more than 780m pages of textual materials and 625,000 museum objects. Presidential Libraries are not libraries in the usual sense. They are archives and museums, bringing together the documents and artifacts of a President, his administration, and his family and presenting them to the public for study and discussion without regard for political considerations or affiliations.
The intent from the beginning was to have the Presidential Librarieslocated throughout the country where scholars and school children could learn about their government, the Presidency, and service in government. In dedicating this library, Franklin D. Roosevelt, captured the essence of the mission:
"To bring together the records of the past and to house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future, a Nation must believe in three things. It must believe in the past. It must believe in the future. It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future."
The Presidential Libraries are a uniquely American phenomenon—a partnership of the Federal Government, a private foundation, and the President's family—working together to preserve the legacy of the President and his administration and to educate, inspire, and entertain. And, I hope, to excite young people about careers in public service.
At the FDR Library dedication on June 30, 1941, Archivist of the United States RDW Connor declared that "The raw materials of history are the records of past human affairs, and only when such records have been preserved and made available to him can the historian truly reconstruct and interpret the past. It must have been some such thought that inspired the idea that finds concrete expression in this library which we dedicate today."