The History of Presidential Libraries: An Insider’s Look

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Duration 01:03:32

Former Executive Director, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Alan C. Lowe has served as interim Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, founding Director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and Executive Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. He currently is Executive Director of the American Museum of Science and Energy and Executive Director of the K-25 History Center in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Lowe is also the co-host and historian of the popular podcast, American POTUS, all about the American presidency, and the new podcasts American SCOTUS (focusing on the United States Supreme Court) and American FLOTUS (focusing on America’s First Ladies).


America’s presidential libraries tell the story of the presidency and those who have occupied our nation’s highest office. From Washington to Bush, from McKinley to Clinton, these institutions preserve and present history that has helped define our nation and change the world. Having worked with presidential libraries for over twenty years, and serving as Director of three of them, Alan Lowe is a uniquely qualified “tour guide” who will describe how presidential libraries were first imagined, how they are created and operated, and how they serve, in a variety of ways, to advance our understanding of the fascinating and vitally important story of the presidency.



Recommended Reading:

Presidential Libraries and Museums, by Christian A. Nappo

Homes and Libraries of the Presidents, by William Clotworthy

Presidential Places: A Guide to the Historic Sites of U.S. Presidents, by Gary W. Ferris

(The National Archives website,, includes information on the NARA presidential libraries and links to each libraries’ website.)



Discussion Questions:

1. How can presidential libraries respect their namesakes and donors while retaining an objective approach in their exhibits and programs?

2. What role does the government have, if any, in continuing the tradition of presidential libraries?

3. How can presidential libraries best confront the challenges and opportunities of digital archives?

4. What is the best way to present history to make it relevant to visitors of different backgrounds and interests?



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Cheryl Lapin

I’m behind in watching some of the lectures. Just returned from the
Clinton Library so found this lecture extremely interesting. Have listed a few others but now I want to see more.

2 years ago
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