Dark, cloudy skies with intermittent heavy downpours to sprinklings of rain make today the perfect day for exploring, researching, and documenting new finds. Among my many searches today to complement draft posts to come, I entered just two of the 13 Presidential Libraries (Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S.Truman Libraries), which have their collections online.
The Office of Presidential Libraries administers a nationwide network of Presidential libraries beginning with the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. Currently, this includes:
- 13 Presidential Libraries
- Presidential Materials Staff
- Central Office Staff
These are not traditional libraries, but rather repositories for preserving and making accessible the papers, records, and other historical materials of U.S. Presidents. Presidential Libraries and Museums are great treasures of our nation’s history. They are important sources for historians and other researchers studying our presidents and our history. In addition to archiving and preserving presidential papers and objects, presidential libraries and museums bring history to millions of visitors from around the world.
During his second term in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt surveyed the vast quantities of papers and other materials he and his staff had accumulated. In the past, many Presidential papers and records had been lost, destroyed, sold for profit, or ruined by poor storage conditions. President Roosevelt sought a better alternative. On the advice of noted historians and scholars, he established a public repository to preserve the evidence of the Presidency for future generations. Beginning a tradition that continues to this day, he raised private funds for the new facility and then turned it over to the United States government for operation through the National Archives.
With Memorial Day Celebrations recently over, I thought I would share with you just one of my findings below as a single example of the treasures that abound in these libraries:
A Petition to FDR from 1,746 Inmates at Folsom, California State Prison
The “unprovoked and dastardly attack” by Japan on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, brought an immediate unity of purpose to the nation. Thousands of letters flooded into the White House after the attack, and especially after FDR delivered his War Message to Congress (the “date which will live in infamy” speech) on December 8th. Citizens of all political persuasions and from all parts of the country pledged their support, volunteered their service, and offered to enlist in the military. One of the most interesting examples among the President’s papers is a petition that FDR received signed by prisoners at Folsom State Penitentiary in California. This is the first page of the bound petition that contains 39 pages and 1,746 signatures.
A Potential Threat to these Libraries’ existence?
Before closing, I’d also like to share with you a link to an article written April 25, 2013, by Anthony Clark, (a former House staffer who writes about the legislative branch and presidential legacy) for Salon Media Group. If the projections in the article are credible, then we stand to lose another great window for looking back at reflections from the past and mirrors to our future as a people and a nation–losing these libraries would mean losing national treasures and/or access to them at a time when government information has been designated “open and transparent“.