The Record - January 1998

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum Opens

At a dedication ceremony held on November 6, 1997, Archivist of the United States John W. Carlin formally accepted responsibility for the operation of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum on behalf of the National Archives and Records Administration. Carlin received the key to the building from John Ellis "Jeb" Bush, president of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation, as well as a check for $4,477,233 from the Foundation and the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents to establish an endowment for operating the new facility.

This tenth library in the system administered by NARA's Office of Presidential Libraries sits in a 90-acre meadow in the southwest corner of the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas. It was built with private funds totaling more than $40 million, a portion of which was devoted to construction of an adjacent presidential conference center.

Presidential libraries are built with private funds and then donated to the Federal Government to operate and maintain. Associated with each library are private foundations or organizations that support many activities at the libraries, including outreach and public programs, research grants, conferences and symposia, and museum exhibits. In the case of the Bush Library, NARA has worked in partnership with the Bush Library Foundation and the Texas A&M Board of Regents.

Former President Bush closed his remarks at the dedication ceremony with the words: "Today, I feel like the luckiest person in the world," echoing the farewell statement of his sports idol, baseball great Lou Gehrig, in closing out his professional career. President Bill Clinton also attended the ceremony, along with former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Former President Ronald Reagan was represented by his wife Nancy. Also attending were Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, Lady Bird Johnson, and David and Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Foreign dignitaries included former Polish president Lech Walesa and former prime ministers John Major of the United Kingdom, Brian Mulroney of Canada, and Toshiki Kaifu of Japan. Also present were numerous Bush friends from the entertainment industry, including actor Kevin Costner and the members of country music's The Oak Ridge Boys. A crowd estimated at 15,000 applauded the speeches that accompanied the ceremony.

David E. Alsobrook, who has served as the Acting Director of the Bush Materials Project since its inception in January 1993, was named Director of the Library and Museum in April 1997. A member of the NARA staff since 1977, Dr. Alsobrook previously served as the supervisory archivist for the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

The Bush Library's research room officially opens on January 20, 1998, in accordance with Presidential Records Act guidelines. Researchers will be allowed to peruse items from the more than 12,000 boxes of documents on the career of George Bush. Archivists are continuing to process the 38 million pages of paper records, more than 2,500 hours of video footage, and more than 60,000 rolls of film from Mr. Bush's Vice Presidential and Presidential years.

"I feel like the luckiest person in the world."

The Bush Museum contains both a permanent exhibit on the former President's career and space for changing exhibits. The permanent exhibit includes a replica of the TBM Avenger aircraft from which Bush bailed out near the Japanese-held island of Chichi Jima during World War II and a Studebaker automobile like the one Bush drove when he moved to Texas after graduating from Yale University. Other items in the exhibit document Bush's career in the House of Representatives and his service as Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Chief Liaison to the People's Republic of China, and Director of Central Intelligence, as well as his eight years as Vice President and four-year Presidency. Also included are mockups of the Oval Office, the Camp David office, and Air Force One as they appeared during the Bush Presidency. A major portion of the exhibit deals with the United Nations' response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Operation Desert Storm. Other features of the facility include a specially designed classroom that will employ the latest electronic technology to develop an appreciation of American history and of the role of the Presidency among secondary-school children.

The nine other libraries administered by NARA's Office of Presidential Libraries are: the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA; the Jimmy Carter Library in Atlanta, GA; the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, MI; the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, TX; the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, MA; the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library in Abilene, KS; the Harry S Truman Library in Independence, MO; the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, NY; and the Herbert Hoover Library in West Branch, IA.

More than 1.2 million visitors tour the Presidential libraries annually. In addition, research rooms at the libraries hosted nearly 13,000 research visits in 1996.