About Presidential Libraries
The Frequently Asked Questions page contains additional information about the National Archives Presidential Libraries and Museums.
The Presidential Library System
Presidential Libraries are archives and museums, bringing together the documents and artifacts of a President and his administration and presenting them to the public for study and discussion without regard for political considerations or affiliations. Presidential Libraries and Museums, like their holdings, belong to the American people.
Many Presidential papers and records had been lost, destroyed, sold for profit, or ruined by poor storage conditions. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought a better alternative.
Congress legislated this policy, passing the Presidential Libraries Act in 1955. Through archives, museums, and public programs, Presidential Libraries continue to preserve the documents and artifacts of our Presidents, helping us learn about our nation and our democracy.
Holdings Overview at Presidential Libraries
The Presidential Libraries maintain over 600 million pages of textual materials; nearly 20 million photographs; over 20 million feet of motion picture film; nearly 100,000 hours of disc, audiotape, and videotape recordings; over 500 TB of electronic data, and close to 750,000 museum objects. These varied holdings make each library a rich source of information and a center for research on the Presidency.
The most important textual materials in each library are those created by the President and his staff in the course of performing the official duties. In recently established Presidential libraries, these documents can also be in electronic form. Researchers will also find that each library contains a rich audiovisual and photographic record of a President at work. Taken together, these historical materials form the substantive record of public policy in each administration. Libraries also house numerous museum objects which may include family heirlooms, items collected by the President and his family, campaign memorabilia, awards, and the many gifts given to the President by American citizens and foreign dignitaries. These gifts range in type from homemade items to valuable works of art. Curators in Presidential libraries and in other museums throughout the country draw upon these collections for historical exhibits.
Other significant holdings include the personal papers and historical materials donated by individuals associated with the President. These individuals may include cabinet officials, envoys to foreign governments, political party associates, and the President's family and personal friends. Several libraries have undertaken oral history programs that have produced valuable tape-recorded memoirs.
A third body of materials comprises the papers accumulated by the President prior to, and following, his Presidency. Such collections include documents relating to Roosevelt's tenure as Governor of New York and Dwight Eisenhower's long military career.
The Presidential Records research page has information about accessing the presidential collections.
Additional information on our holdings can be found in our Frequently Asked Questions.