8 Presidential Libraries Every History Buff Should Visit
There have been 45 presidents since America was founded, yet only 14 presidential libraries. These are the ones that can't be missed.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd resident, was the first president to establish a presidential library in 1939 when he donated his personal and presidential papers to the federal government. While FDR’s and all the presidential libraries are overseen by the National Archives and Records Administration, this museum, built on his family property in Hyde Park, New York, has a collection of more than 34,000 items from FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt’s political and social life during the 1930s and 1940s, spanning from the Great Depression to FDR’s New Deal to World War II. A highlight is FDR’s rare book collection, with more than 22,000 volumes donated from his private collection. Those who love Americana will also want to check out these 16 best cities for history buffs.
Richard Nixon Presidential Museum and Library
The Richard Nixon Presidential Museum and Library sits on nine picturesque acres in Yorba Linda, California, which also happens to be Nixon’s birthplace. The 37th president’s library features Army 1, the presidential helicopter, used by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, a large section of the Berlin Wall, and 70 exhibits on The Vietnam War, Communism, the Cold War, and Watergate. You can also visit the Pat Nixon Gardens, the final resting place of President Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon. Politics nerds will love these iconic newspaper covers that changed the course of history.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Though he was president in the 1860s, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum wasn’t incorporated until 2000. The Springfield, Illinois library and museum feature more than 52,000 artifacts and documents, including one of President Lincoln’s stove-pipe hats and copies of The Emancipation Proclamation and The Gettysburg Address, two milestone Civil War speeches, as well as the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in America.
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is set on 300 acres in Simi Valley, California and features a full-size replica of the White House Oval Office where President Reagan famously never took off his suit jacket. It also features an Air Force One aircraft, tail number 27000, which flew seven U.S. presidents, and the first-of-its-kind hologram of President Reagan. Ronald and Nancy Reagan are both laid to rest at the Library with a beautiful memorial carved with the words, ‘”I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
The 35th president’s library in Boston hosts over 20,000 artifacts and special exhibits about Kennedy’s founding of the Peace Corp and U.S. Space Program. And for fans of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, there is also a comprehensive collection of clothes from her White House era. Another special find: the Ernest Hemingway Papers, which were donated to the library by Ernest’s wife Mary Hemingway after Kennedy made a special arrangement for her to retrieve his things from Cuba following the Bay of Pigs Invasion that banned travel to Cuba. Fans of Camelot won’t want to miss these 15 rarely seen photos of JFK and Jackie.
William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum
The 25th president’s library in Canton, Ohio contains artifacts and furniture from the McKinley’s home, an exhibit on his leadership during the Spanish-American War and his tragic assassination in 1901. One of the most special artifacts is his wife Ida Saxton McKinley’s gold and diamond tiara, which was featured on an episode of Pawn Stars in 2014 after one of the descendants of Ida McKinley’s sister brought it to the Las Vegas pawn shop. More than 300 donors amassed the $43,000 asking price to give it a proper home in the library. Here are some astonishing facts you never knew about our U.S. presidents.
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
One of the most controversial presidents in American history, Herbert Hoover led the country from 1928 to 1933 during the start of The Great Depression. Hoover’s library in West Branch, Iowa features exhibits about his childhood (he was raised a Quaker and was orphaned at the age of 9), to the years he devoted post-presidency to social causes, where he also helped serve both Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower during their presidencies. Little House on the Prairie fans will appreciate seeing manuscripts from author Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Barack Obama Presidential Library
The 44th president’s library is the first fully digital library, so you can’t visit this one in-person. But you can view extensive information, photos, and videos of Barack, former First Lady Michelle, and their daughters during his presidency from 2009 to 2017. You’ll have to wait until January 20, 2022, to view President Obama’s presidential records, due to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and requirements of the Presidential Records Act (PRA). Read on to find out the answers to the 16 history questions everyone gets wrong.