Whether you’re a political aficionado, a history buff, or just a tourist looking for a place to spend the afternoon, the answer is almost always to head to the nearest presidential library

One of my earliest vacation memories is my family visiting the Bill Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I remember being astounded not only by the physical space but full of displays, gift shops, interesting pictures and papers, and more. There’s an endless by all the information inside. Like any museum you might encounter, presidential libraries are amount of information you can learn from, you’ll learn so much more about the presidency than you ever imagined, and you can tour them in person or from the comfort of your couch. Since then, I’ve visited both Bush presidential libraries and have explored others online. They’re an endless pool of learning opportunities–especially if you love politics and history.

For some history: the first presidential library was created under President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1941. Now, there are fourteen libraries–for presidents FDR through Obama, and for Roosevelt’s predecessor Herbert Hoover. These libraries are all connected via the Office of Presidential Libraries, which is under the National Archives and Records Administration. Most charge admissions fees that go towards upkeep and education, but consider it a cost worth spending.

Not only are presidential libraries archives of what a president did, didn’t do, ate, wore, experienced, and more, they also represent the way that the archival process has evolved in the United States. For example, the Clinton library I visited as a child was very tangible–there were displays and written documents and Hillary Clinton’s outfits, and the like. Now, the Obama presidential library is pretty much entirely digital, and the Trump library will be full of tweets! 

To showcase why everyone should visit a presidential library, online or in person, let’s take a look at the George W Bush Presidential Library in University Park, Texas. There are biographies of the president and his first lady, Laura Bush, as well as their pets, Barney and Miss Beazley. There’s an archive of photographs taken during the most pivotal day of Bush’s presidency–9/11–and from calmer days playing tee ball on the South Lawn. 

If you’re doing research–for school, a book, personal interest, or whatever–the library is there to help! There’s a ton of material posted always, but you can also easily file a Freedom of Information Act request. There are 70 million pages of textual material at the library–so research can be intense!  There are also exhibits, a real life Oval Office replica, movies, and more.

There’s also an extensive digital archive. As you might recall from 2018, now Justice Brett Kavanaugh served in the White House under Bush 43, so the administration released a metric heck ton of information from his tenure. That’s all online via the presidential library

If you’re a teacher, the Bush library (and other libraries!) also have great information on lesson plans, planning field trips to the site, and even professional development opportunities. While writing this, I discovered the Bush library offers a professional development training called “USING PRIMARY SOURCES & PROJECTS TO TEACH FIRST LADIES AS LEADERS OF CHANGE.” If you’re local, definitely take advantage of that ASAP.

The following are the 14 existing presidential libraries and where they are located. Consider visiting one on your next road trip or vacation!

Hoover: West Branch, Iowa

Roosevelt: Hyde Park, New York

Truman: Independence, Missouri

Eisenhower: Abilene, Kansas

Kennedy: Boston, Massachusetts

Johnson: Austin, Texas

Nixon: Yorba Linda, California

Ford: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Carter: Atlanta,Georgia

Reagan: Simi Valley, California

Bush 41: College Station, Texas

Clinton: Little Rock, Arkansas

Bush 43: University Park, Texas

Obama: Chicago, Illinois (Opening Date TBA)

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member