Wonder who has the cancelled check for the purchase of the state of Alaska as well as George Washington’s personal copy of the Constitution? John Orrell, Public Affairs and Marketing Director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, shared these answers and more with McKinney’s Owl Club.
The National Archives, which maintains all presidential libraries, has these items. It endeavors to keep every record of a presidency as well as presidential gifts and donated artifacts.
The Presidential Library System was established by FDR in 1939. President Roosevelt donated his home and property to house the first presidential library in Hyde Park, New York. In 1950, it was decided that presidential libraries should be built through private donations and then maintained by the National Archives. The Bush Foundation raised $500 million to build the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum at SMU. Its 15 acres house both the Presidential Library and Museum, run by the federal government, as well as the Bush Institute, run by the Bush Foundation.
The Bush Library contains an amazing 80 terabytes of digital records – the largest electronic records collection of any Presidential Library. It has 40,000 artifacts, including the bullhorn and jacket used by President Bush when he visited New York City shortly after 9/11. Also in the collection is the baseball from the first pitch the President threw in Game 3 of the World Series in Yankee Stadium, Oct. 30, 2001. Four million photographs from the Bush presidency are in the archives. Halfway through his presidency, photography transitioned from using film negatives to digital images. In addition to the digital images, there are 70 million pages of paperwork.
Other artifacts that can be found in the Museum include:
• the gun Saddam Hussein was carrying when he was captured;
• a baseball bat signed by 47 baseball Hall of Famers;
• a sapphire and diamond necklace, bracelet, earrings, and ring, which was a gift from the Prince of Saudi Arabia (and yes, Mrs. Bush did wear some of this jewelry, but never all of it at once);
• a stuffed lion from the Prince of Tansania – a prince of a neighboring country told President Bush, “If our country had given you a lion, it would have been alive!”;
• the Howard badge – the badge of a fallen New York City Port Authority officer who died on 9/11, given to President Bush by the officer’s mother. The President kept this in his pocket every day until the day he turned it over to the Museum; and
• a 22-foot section of twisted steel from Ground Zero.
You can also visit a full-sized replica of the Oval Office and have your picture taken sitting at a replica of the Resolute desk. The original desk was a gift from Queen Victoria to the President of the United States in 1880 and was built from the timbers of the British Arctic exploration Ship Resolute.
A special announcement was made that beginning Nov. 25, the museum will host its first temporary exhibit, “Christmas at the White House 2001, Home for the Holidays.” Visitors will be able to view all the Christmas ornaments and decorations Mrs. Bush used to adorn the White House for the holidays that Christmas following 9/11.
Want to help? The Bush Library and Museum runs with the help of over 300 volunteers but it wants more. If you are interested in volunteering, you can learn more at www.georgewbushlibrary.smu.edu by clicking on “Jobs, Volunteers and Internships” at the bottom of the home page.
Oh, and by the way, if you go, don’t miss having lunch at Café 43. We hear the homemade ricotta and the grilled carrot cake is fab.
Story submitted by Linda Spina