This week in Dallas, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum officially opened to the public. The ex-president himself greeted several dozen schoolchildren who were the first visitors to the museum.
Many of the children stated that they were amazed to see the former president in person as the library opened.
The library and the museum, in addition to the policy institute, are in the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The center and the library were dedicated in early May during an official ceremony that included Bush, his father, and all of the living presidents, including President Obama.
The 40 students who were at the opening of the library were from the Dallas area and were selected by superintendents to be the very first visitors to the library and museum. About 300,000 visitors are expected each year.
The library is designed to be the repository for text, audiovisual, and electronic records that were created or received all through the administration of President Bush. There are more than 29,000 cubic feet of documents that are housed at the library. Some of the records on file include White House Office of Records Management Subject Files, White House Staff Member Office Files, and records created by the WMD Commission.
Not just presidential records are included in these files. The library has condolence letters that were received by the US State Department after the 911 attacks. Eventually the records will include those from President Bush’s tenure as the governor of Texas.
Presidential records at the library are being processed according to the Presidential Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
Other records that are housed at the library include audiovisual material from photo office of the White House. The library has about 1200 cubic feet of audiovisual items, such as 47,000 audio and videotapes and 380,000 still photos. Also, the library has about 80 terabytes of electronic records and 3 million photographs.
Special photo collections include 40 digital photos that were taken all through Bush’s presidency and are given to the public as lithographs. There also is a photo gallery dedicated to the 9/11 attacks. And, there is a photo gallery of 25 pictures taken on the South Lawn of a tee ball event that occurred every year of the Bush administration.
In terms of electronic records, the library has the biggest electronics collection of any Presidential library. The data includes more than 150 million email messages that went through the email system at the White House. It also includes files from shared network drives that were used in all parts of the White House. Also included are all types of data from records management, appointments and scheduling. Most of these electronic items are in the Electronics Records Archive at the National Archives.
Archivists at the library are at this time processing millions of electronic records and some samples are going to be published on the website in the coming months. The ARMS Email Series has a copy of every message that was sent/received by the email account of a White House staff member throughout Bush’s presidency.
Some of the emails at the library that have already been published on the website include emails that detail the creation of the No Child Left Behind Act, which started at the beginning of the Bush presidency.
The Bush Presidential Library has many of the advanced technological features that we are starting to see in new libraries in the 21st century. Much of the focus is on the archiving of electronic records and multimedia. We can expect libraries such as these to continue to grow in the future, as more documents and library materials become electronic only.