Presidential History for Presidents' Day

Posted on February 13, 2014
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="180"] FDR Presidential Library and Museum FDR Presidential Library & Museum[/caption] As we have reported, prior to 1940, U.S. presidents kept or passed to their descendants the papers that documented their terms of office. Some of those papers were lost forever. In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to arrange to have a library built using private funds, and then to transfer ownership of the library and his papers to the federal government. Through its Office of Presidential Libraries, the National Archives and Records Administration operates presidential libraries housing the papers of all subsequent presidents through George W. Bush, as well as President Roosevelt’s predecessor in the White House, Herbert Hoover. These libraries have millions of visitors each year, all looking for papers, official records, and other materials that document presidential history. Each presidential library is associated with a private foundation, which raises the funds to build the library and then turns the library facility over to the federal government. The ongoing relationships between these foundations and their libraries may involve sharing of staff or facilities.  There are also a number of federal laws that influence how they have to be designed, constructed, and transferred to the government. Some private groups are now beginning to plan for an eventual library for President Obama. Table 1 provides locations and other facts about the 13 existing presidential libraries. (Table data is from 2011). Presidential Library Chart Table excerpted from GAO-11-390
  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact James R. White at
  • Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact