The Birth of the Tenth Presidential Library:
The Bush Presidential Materials Project, 1993-1994
David E. Alsobrook*
The Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the tenth Presidential library, will be built on the campus of Texas A&M University between 1995 and 1997 and administered by the National Archives. It will be the archival depository for all of George Bush's Vice-Presidential and Presidential records and memorabilia as well as voluminous personal papers dealing with his life before and after his service in the White House. Every Presidential library undergoes an evolution from a Presidential materials project to a fully functioning facility, and the Bush Library currently is in its earliest period of development. The Bush Presidential Materials Project is systematically processing President Bush's records and museum objects for exhibit when the library opens to the public in 1997. The Bush Library will be the most highly computerized Presidential library to date, with automated systems, including an optical scanner for documents, facilitating archival processing and reference services.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum was held on November 30, 1994, in College Station, Texas. The tenth Presidential library administered by the National Archives will be constructed between 1995 and 1997 on ninety acres on the western edge of the Texas A&M University campus. The Bush Library's archival and museum collections include George Bush's Vice-Presidential and Presidential records and memorabilia and personal papers documenting his lengthy public service career as congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, liaison to China, and director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The museum will feature many unique exhibits, including a replica of President Bush's private study at Camp David, where he met frequently with national and world leaders.
Texas A&M University. Arrow shows site of future Bush Library. (photo courtesy of Texas A&M Photographic Services)
The Bush Library's scholarly programs will be enriched through cooperative ventures with three academic components administered by Texas A&M--the George Bush School of Government and Public Service, the Center for Presidential Studies, and the Center for Public Leadership Studies. These three entities and the Bush Library and Museum will be known collectively as the Bush Presidential Library Center. Dr. Don W. Wilson, former Archivist of the United States and Director of the Gerald R. Ford Library, will serve as the Executive Director of the Bush Presidential Library Center.
THE BUSH PROJECT'S BASIC MISSIONS
The Bush Presidential Materials Project, established in January 1993, represents the first phase in the evolution of the future Bush Library (1). The Bush Project is the unit of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) which is responsible for preparing President Bush's records and artifacts for research and exhibit in the Library. The staff's primary duties currently focus on the systematic processing of substantive, unclassified records and cataloging of museum objects. Over the past two years, the Project's reference duties have increased steadily in response to queries from President Bush's office, the White House, Congress, and various Federal agencies. Staff members also have worked closely with CRSS-HOK, the Houston architectural firm which designed the Bush Library, to ensure that the facility will meet the requisite standards for storage, security, temperature and humidity levels, and overall flexibility.
Above: Projected rendition of the entrance to the future George Bush Presidential Library. (photo courtesy of George Bush Presidential Library Foundation and Texas A&M Photographic Services)
Below: Architect's plans show the setting of the new library on the Texas A&M campus. The university's Shared-use Facility is on the left; behind the Library site is the university's Academic Building. (photo by Michael Kellett '91, Texas A&M Photographic Services)
FROM THE WHITE HOUSE TO TEXAS
On May 3, 1991, after two years of speculative media reports, the White House announced that President Bush had selected Texas A&M University as the future site for the tenth Presidential library. The University of Houston-Rice, Texas Tech, and Yale also had submitted library proposals to the President (2). Writing to Ross D. Margraves, Jr., Chairman of the Texas A&M Board of Regents, President Bush revealed that one element of Texas A&M's proposal was of special interest to him:
I was particularly pleased to note the University's commitment to integrate the library into ... academic activities. The ... planned public service school and Center for Presidential Studies will foster strong links between the library and the University, and offer a splendid opportunity for scholarly involvement by other institutions of higher education (not only in Texas, but elsewhere in the United States).(3)
President Bush, thus, clearly indicated from the outset that he was vitally interested in the future Library's scholarly programs and not merely the "bricks and mortar."(4)
Shortly after the Presidential election in November 1992, NARA officials, in consultation with the White House, the Department of Defense, and other Federal agencies, initiated planning for the movement of the Bush historical materials to College Station, Texas. NARA's Office of Presidential Libraries, under the leadership of Assistant Archivist John Fawcett and his predecessors, had coordinated the complex logistics of such missions for many years. The Reagan move of 1988-1989 served as the logistical model for shipping the Bush materials to Texas. As planning progressed, the Bush move evolved into two distinct tasks: (1) selection and renovation of a temporary facility for the Bush Project in College Station, and (2) preparation and shipment of the Bush materials to Texas.
Two veteran NARA employees, Patrick J. Borders, Deputy Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries, and Stephen E. Hannestad, Director of the Acquisitions and Systems Management Division, coordinated all of the details associated with the first task. After carefully surveying available properties in Bryan and College Station, Borders and Hannestad selected the Chimney Hill facility, located within a mile of the Texas A&M campus. Within two months, this vacant bowling alley was renovated in preparation for the arrival of 36,000,000 pages of records and 40,000 museum objects. During this brief timeframe, the building's electrical, air conditioning, and fire alarm and sprinkler systems were upgraded and an electronic security system was installed. A vault for classified documents was constructed according to Federal security agencies' specifications. A second vault for foreign head of state gifts also was built. Finally, steel storage shelving was erected in the stacks, and staff offices were created within the structure's existing interior. By early January 1993, the building was ready for occupancy.
As the renovation of the Chimney Hill facility proceeded in November 1992, a small team of NARA archivists moved into the White House complex to inventory and prepare the Bush materials for the 1500-mile journey to Texas. Two of these archivists, William Joyner and Byron Parham of the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff, were veterans of several previous moves. However, for archivists Alan Lowe, Stephanie Fawcett, Don McIlwaine, and Jill Glenewinkel, the Bush move was their "baptism of fire." Despite the pressures of an accelerated work schedule, this NARA team performed in a highly professional, dedicated fashion from November through January to ensure that the Bush materials would be en route to Texas by Inauguration Day. Terry Good, Director of the White House Office of Records Management (WHORM), and his seasoned staff ably assisted the NARA archivists during the surveying and packing phase of the operation (5).
Patrick Borders, while continuing to monitor the Chimney Hill renovation, supervised the overall logistics of the movement of Bush materials from the White House to Texas. He maintained an ongoing liaison with the Department of Defense and the White House as the Bush materials were inventoried, boxed, palletized, and stockpiled in secure storage at Andrews Air Force Base. Throughout this phase of the mission, U.S. Marines and Army troops furnished much of the manual labor in preparing the records and artifacts for transfer to Andrews. At the National Archives, a separate packing operation was underway for Bush records and gifts which had been in storage since 1989. Douglas Thurman and his experienced staff at the Office of Presidential Libraries were responsible for this important segment of the mission (6).
As inventorying and packing continued steadily in Washington, D.C., other NARA employees put the finishing touches on the Chimney Hill facility. In early January 1993, James N. Parker, Jr., NARA's Safety and Security Officer, supervised the installation of the security and smoke detection systems and conducted an orientation for the Bush Project's security guards. Warren L. Finch, one of the three original Bush Project staff members, arrived at College Station on January 4, 1993, to oversee the installation of the steel shelving and the office's computer network (7).
Above: An Air Force C-5A transport aircraft arrives at Ft. Hood, Texas, with part of the first shipment of Bush materials from Washington, D.C.
Below: A U.S. Army soldier guards a truck at Ft. Hood. (photos by James Parker, NARA)
On January 15, 1993, two C-5A transport aircraft departed from Andrews Air Force Base with the first shipment of Bush materials. After these planes landed at Ft. Hood, Texas, U.S. Army personnel transferred the pallets and crates to eleven tractor trailer trucks. On January 16, the trucks were convoyed 123 miles southeast to College Station, with security provided by the U.S. Army, the Federal Protective Service, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and local law enforcement agencies. In College Station, soldiers from Ft. Hood shelved the boxes from the pallets as directed by NARA staff. However, since each box was labeled with a designated shelf location, NARA supervision at this point was quite minimal. On January 20-21, 1993, these procedures were repeated, with two additional C-5As and nine tractor-trailer trucks. By the afternoon of January 21, all of the Bush materials were secured in the Bush Project facility in College Station.
THE BUSH PROJECT'S EARLY DAYS
With the departure of the Ft. Hood troops and NARA personnel on January 21, 1993, the Bush Project staff consisted of three archivists. The staff's feelings of elation upon the completion of the move were tempered by the realization that their work was just beginning. Intellectual control over the archival and museum collections would have to be established immediately. NARA-generated computer printouts of box locations and rudimentary shelf lists greatly expedited this task.
The telephone began ringing incessantly on January 21, and the staff responded to reference requests from President Bush's office in Houston and a variety of questions from Texas A&M officials, journalists, job-seekers, and the general public. Fortunately, along with the records and memorabilia, the Bush Project inherited all of the principal White House computerized systems, which provided rapid access to the collections. "C-Track" (Correspondence Tracking) allowed the Bush Project staff to identify and locate records through various search modes--subject, name of correspondent, date, identification number, key word, and a combination of these data elements. After finding a citation to a particular document in the C-Track system, the archivists then pulled the original item from the stacks. Other databases expedited similar searches for photographs, museum objects, and President Bush's public statements on various topics. Between January and April of 1993, the Bush Project could not have functioned without these automated resources. When the C-Track system is enhanced with the addition of optically scanned records in late 1994 or early 1995, the Bush Project's automated systems will serve as prototypes for future Presidential libraries.
STAFFING THE BUSH PROJECT
Even with the latest computer technology, three archivists were incapable of performing all of the Bush Project's basic functions. Therefore, during the spring of 1993, with guidance and support from the Office of Presidential Libraries, the Bush Project staff established priorities for hiring new employees. Because of NARA budgetary restraints, at least half of the new staff would be drawn from within the agency. By early summer of 1993, an office automation clerk, two archives technicians, and two archivists were added to the staff. A third archivist and a museum curator were hired in the fall of 1993, creating a total staff of 10. Of these 10 employees, six came from other NARA units and four were hired from outside the Federal government (8). With a professional staff of 10, the Bush Project could expand beyond its basic reference and "warehousing" duties.
Bush Project staff in the vault for gifts from foreign Heads of State at College Station, Texas. (photo: Specialties Photography, Bryan, Texas)
THE BUSH PROJECT'S INITIAL PROCESSING
Under the terms of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 (PRA), Bush Vice-Presidential and Presidential records would be subject to Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests on January 20, 1994, and January 20, 1998, respectively. With the FOIA deadline rapidly approaching for the Vice-Presidential records, the staff's first major processing assignment during the summer of 1993 was the arrangement, preservation, and description of these materials. By late December 1993, folder-title lists and other finding aids had been completed for approximately 900 cubic feet of Vice-Presidential records.
After finishing this initial project, the staff began processing selected series of Bush personal papers and portions of the WHORM Subject File. In July 1994, the staff also processed the first series of White House Press Office files.
Like the Reagan Library archivists, the Bush Project staff must deal with the legal complexities of the PRA in reviewing records in their custody (9). As the Reagan Library archivists already have discovered, the PRA's various restriction categories are subject to intricate legal interpretations and exceptions to the rules, thus complicating systematic review of the records. One of the most potentially problematic PRA restriction categories is "confidential advice" between the President and his advisors. Accurately interpreting and implementing this particular restriction category requires frequent communication with the former President's legal representative. The Bush Project is attempting to fathom the intricacies of the PRA with guidance from NARA, the Office of Presidential Libraries, and President Bush's legal representative, James W. Cicconi.
A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE
Although plans for the Bush Presidential Library and Museum still are in their formative stages, the future looks very promising. Texas A&M and the Bryan-College Station communities are enthusiastic supporters of the future Library. The Bush Project staff will continue to reach out to "town and gown" and nurture relations with these invaluable Library advocates. Moreover, President and Mrs. Bush are the strongest supporters of the Library and obviously are priceless assets for such an institution. With such energetic support, this facility undoubtedly someday will become a vital member of the group of unique research and educational entities known as Presidential libraries.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
I . For a detailed analysis of the various phases of development for Presidential libraries, see Don W. Wilson, "Presidential Libraries: Developing to Maturity," Presidential Studies Quarterly, 22 (Fall, 1991): 774-775.
2. White House Press Release, May 3, 1991: "Three Texas Schools, Yale Campaign Vigorously for Bush Library," Dallas Morning News, reprinted in Atlanta Journal-Constitution (February 18, 1990); Kathy Lewis and Kathy Kiely, "Houstonians Have Been Flooding Bush with Letters about Presidential Library," Houston Post (May 1, 1990); J. Michael Kennedy, "3 Texas Universities Fight to Be Depository of Presidential Papers," Los Angeles Times (July 24, 1990); "No Decision Likely Soon on Site of Bush Library," Houston Post (January 10, 1991); "Bush Picks Texas A&M for Site of Library," New York Times (May 5, 1991); Carl P. Leubsdorf and Kathy Lewis, "Bush Picks A&M To Hold His Papers," Dallas Morning News (May 4,1991); Craig Hines, "Hullabaloo! A&M Wins Bush Library," Houston Chronicle (May 4, 1991); William A. McKenzie, "Pursuit of Bush Library 3 Year Effort," The Texas Aggie (August 1991), pp. 10-13.
3. President George Bush to Ross D. Margraves, Jr., May 3, 1991, letter quoted in "Preparation Begins for Bush Library," Texas A&M--Texas Official Game Program (November 28, 1992).
4. President Bush has emphasized this point on several occasions since leaving the White House in 1993: The Battalion (Texas A&M) (April 22,1993); "George Bush Talks about His Presidential Library" (1993), videotape, Texas A&M University Office of University Relations; Kara Bounds and Tanya Sasser, 'Bush Interested in Lecturing at Library Center," Bryan-College Station Eagle (March 27, 1993).
5. Mr. Good, a former NARA staff member assigned to the Nixon White House Liaison Office during the late 1960s and early 1970s, has been involved in movements of Presidential materials since 1977. His deputy, Dr. Lee Johnson, previously served as an archivist in NARA's Carter White House Liaison Office and also participated in several earlier moves.
6. Mr. Thurman, a supervisory archivist with over 20 years of experience with NARA, has played a vital role in Presidential moves since the end of the Ford administration. His entire staff, including Howard McNeill, Sybil Roberts, Judi Doby, Harold Prince, Mildred Byers, and Kristina Lively, contributed significantly to the Bush move.
7. The other original staff members were Mary Finch, audiovisual archivist, and the author.
8. These staff additions were: Johnna Arden, Debbie Bush, Gary Foulk, Laura Spencer, Deborah Cardinal, Jimmie Purvis, and Patricia Burchfield.
9. See Dennis A. Daellenbach, "The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library," Government Information Quarterly, 10 (1994): 29.
* Direct correspondence to: David E. Alsobrook, Director, Bush Presidential Library and Museum,
1000 George Bush Drive West, College Station, Texas 77845.
Government Information Quarterly, Volume 12, Number 1, pages 33-41.