Abstract: This essay relates the fifty-year long history of the Harry S. Truman Library and speculates about what some of the themes that emerge from that history suggest for the future of presidential libraries. Specifically, the library's history reveals a vagueness of purpose derived from the circumstances of its founding; a tendency to grow always larger, more elaborate, more expensive; an increasing reliance on its private partner, the Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs; and a reluctance on the part of the former president to provide the free and open access to his papers that he himself led people to expect. The essay argues implicitly throughout that “creation” is the correct word to use to define a history such as that of the Truman Library, which has been filled with fascinating instances of indeterminacy and opportunity, and with people who must have been surprised at what they accomplished.
- presidential libraries
- presidential papers
- Harry S. Truman Library
- Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs
- National Archives and Records Administration
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