The experiences of previous presidential libraries suggest reason for caution with the Bush Library, Museum, and Institute. See, especially:
“Another Nixon Pardon,” David Greenberg, Slate, January 24, 2006. This is a good example of the kind of control and intervention that partisan institutes can exercise over the public programming at libraries.
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/columnists/barbara_shelly/16547190.htm. A thoughtful op-ed from the Kansas City paper about using the Truman Library as a model, which would require the Bush people to back of on their insistence on screcy and their commitment to the Bush Institute. Clearly the problems in the Presidential Library system have worsened.
“Archiving The Chief: Presidential Libaries Lost,” Keun Lee, Stanford Review, January 25, 2001. Lee laments that Stanford did not land the Nixon and Reagan libraries, but also describes how Stanford’s president wouldn’t stand for being affiliated with a think-tank that wasn’t subject to the standard academic control and procedures that govern faculty hiring. This is exactly the critique of the Bush Institute being made by SMU faculty.
Here Time Magazine covers the debate over a Reagan Institute at Stanford in 1984. As a colleague in engineering pointed out to me, it sounds very similar to the debate now occurring on SMU’s campus.
“Old Story About Bush I Library Seems Eerily Relevant for Bush II Complex,” Benjamin Johnson, April 10, 2007
“Bushwackers Beware,” Benjamin Soskos, Lingua Franca, March 2000
Here is the New York Times‘ coverage of debates over the proposed Ronald Reagan Library at Stanford in the late 1980s, during which Stanford’s President rejected affiliation with an advocacy-oriented think tank very much like the proposed Bush Institute.
By ROBERT LINDSEY, SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: December 24, 1986
All Ronald Reagan’s problems are not in Washington: Thousands of people here are protesting plans to build his Presidential library in the rolling foothills west of Palo Alto. ”They want to put it on one of the last undeveloped hills in the community,” said Samuel Brain, one of the protest leaders. ”There are
a lot of people who are attached to that hill, and they don’t want it ruined.” It remains to be seen who will prevail in the dispute over construction of a Reagan library and museum on a bucolic bluff at Stanford University.But the resistance is already threatening plans by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, a group of friends and other Republicans who are raising money, to open the museum before Mr. Reagan’s second termexpires in January 1989. In a vote of 4 to 2, the Santa Clara County Planning Commission this month gave tentative approval to construction of the complex for theRonald Reagan Presidential Library. With 115,000 square feet of floor space, it would be only slightly smaller than the largest existing Presidental library, the Johnson Library in Austin, Tex.The design by the architect Hugh Stubbins of Cambridge, Mass., uses a California Spanish mission theme similar in many ways to plans for the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library in San Clemente, south of Los Angeles. The planning commission’s endorsement was only the first of several major obstacles that must be cleared before the project can begin, and some opponents of the project say they will go to court if necessary.
”We’ll be fighting them every step of the way,” said Mr. Brain, a research associate at the Stanford Medical School. ”We intend to use all legal means at our disposal to oppose this site for the library.”
#3,000 Protest the Plans Petitions objecting to the project signed by 3,000 homeowners, students, faculty members and others, many of whom said they used the 20-acre site for recreation, were submitted recently to David Kennedy, the president of Stanford.
The opponents assert that if the site is not preserved in its natural state it should be used only for academic purposes. The Reagan museum, they say, will attract many hundreds of tourists and their cars each day and spoil its natural solitude. Advocates of the project disagree. Charles Palm, the archivist for the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, one of the library’s principal planners, said relatively little space at the facility would be used as a museum, only about a third as much as at the Johnson Library. Therefore, he said, warnings that it would attract large crowds were unfounded.
”We would think we’d draw considerably fewer than 1,000 people a day,” he said. ”My own estimate is that we’ll draw 200,000 a year,” about the same number as at the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, N.Y., and the Truman Library in Independence, Mo, he said. Big Store of Videotapes
In what is perhaps appropriate for the archive of a President who has a reputation as a ”great communicator,” especially on television, the library will contain not only Mr. Reagan’s official papers but a large collection of videotapes, including interviews, television appearances and meetings of his Cabinet. The dispute over the library site is the latest in a series of conflicts that have flared at Stanford over the project in recent years.
Officials of the university’s semi-autonomous Hoover Institution, many of them advisers to Mr. Reagan who share his conservative political outlook, proposed soon after his election in 1980 that Stanford become the site not only for his library but for a conservative-oriented public affairs research center. In February 1984, university trustees agreed to a library and museum. The next month, under pressure from faculty members who contended that a public affairs center operating under control of the Hoover Institution would further ”politicize” Stanford, the trustees rejected it.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation is now looking for another site off the campus for the public affairs center. Gary Jones, a former Under Secretary of Education who is executive director of the foundation, said efforts were under way to raise 60 million to pay for the two facilities and $20 million more o serve as an endowment to help operation. He declined in a telephone interview to disclose how much money has been collected so far, but said: ”We’re one year into our development drive and we are clearly ahead of schedule.” Until recently, the foundation expected construction of the facility to begin next spring and be completed by the time Mr. Reagan left office.
Barring further delays because of the community opposition, Mr. Palm said he now expected construction to begin late next summer. It now appears, he said, that the library will not be completed by January 1989, but he said it was hoped a portion of it large enough to store Mr. Reagan’s papers safely would be ready so the documents could be brought here as soon as he left office.”