Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum
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Presidential Seal

About Presidential Libraries

A Presidential Library is like a time capsule. Inside, you can find important documents, records, and letters. These are referred to as the Presidential Papers. You will also find audiovisual materials, campaign memorabilia, and gifts to the President and First Family.

Audiovisual materials might include photographs of the President and First Family carrying out official duties, films, and tapes of speeches and press conferences. Campaign memorabilia, such as posters and buttons, are also on display. The President and First Family often receive gifts from foreign heads of state. These gifts become the property of the United States government if they exceed a certain value. Gifts from American citizens may be kept, but are usually placed in the library as well. From these things, we can learn about a president and about the times in which he lived.

The first presidential library was established by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939. He thought it was important for a president's papers and documents to be preserved and made available to the people. The following is a list of the thirteen presidential libraries operated by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Also included in the Presidential library system is the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff, which administers the Nixon Presidential materials under the terms of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act.

When a President leaves office, NARA establishes a Presidential project until a new Presidential library is built and transferred to the Government. Each President is responsible for financing and building his own library. Once built, the federal government becomes responsible for the administration and operation of the library. Teachers, students, and others come from all over to use the materials in the library for research purposes.

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