Architectural Digest has a 41-image slideshow and article about exploring 12 monumental US Presidential Libraries in honor of the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. I found it very fascinating to see inside these libraries.
On June 30, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt unveiled the first federally sanctioned presidential library on the grounds of his estate in Hyde Park,
New York. “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,” Roosevelt announced at the dedication. “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 judgment in creating their own future.” To build the library, FDR raised $376,000 of private funding and gathered the vast documentation from his three terms in office (he would have four), and turned it all over to the National Archives (now the National Archives and Records Administration), an agency founded in 1934. All the material was made available to researchers and the public. In the past seven decades, following the model begun by FDR, a total of 13 presidential libraries have been built across the U.S.
From relatively modest architectural beginnings—FDR’s library was a two-story Dutch Colonial affair meant to blend in with the family estate—the facilities have become major design and political statements. The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas, is a bold modernist rectangular structure in glass and painted aluminum by Polshek Partnership Architects (now Ennead Architects) that shoots out over the Arkansas River and is intended to express the optimism of the Clinton administration.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, sitting on top of a mountain overlooking California’s Simi Valley, boasts a cavernous glass-walled hangar that holds Air Force One 27000, while the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, at the University of Texas at Austin, is a ten-story-tall testament to midcentury modernism—and LBJ’s Texas Hill Country toughness. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas is the latest addition, a fresh, classical design by Robert A.M. Stern that blends modesty and monumentality—and which raised half a billion dollars in private funds.
Even the granddaddy of them all is freshening up. This summer the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum will reveal a new $35 million renovation of its permanent galleries, and it is getting the word out through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube. FDR might have a hard time recognizing what he has wrought.