Location finalists were announced on Monday for President Barack Obama’s presidential library and museum. The four general locations narrowed down for Obama library each have close personal connections to the President. The four facilities in contention are:
- Columbia University in New York City, where he earned his undergraduate degree;
- the University of Hawaii, in the President’s birth state; and
- the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago, both in the state where he was a Senator. The two Chicago universities offered multiple locations in their proposals, which were not narrowed down, just the general college campus.
The Barack Obama Foundation and the First Couple were offered a dozen sites from sites bidding for their Obama Presidential Library and Museum. All four universities emphasized Obama’s place in history as the first African-American president and how their location would enable economic renewal and engage the community in their bids.
The Chicago-based Barack Obama Foundation, which is spearheading the project, released a “request for proposal” that each of the four colleges have until Dec. 11 to complete. The RFP gives some indication as to what President Obama and first lady Michelle envision for the institution. Like other presidential libraries, the facility will hold documents from the couple’s White House tenure and present special exhibits and programs about their administration. Taking a lead from the Clinton School of Public Service and the George W. Bush Institute, the Obama RFP requests support ideas for the Obamas’ future activities.
The Clinton and George W. Bush facilities were created as partnerships between the libraries of those president and initiatives for the future. In the Obama library RFP, the bidders were asked to provide their ideas for academic collaboration and ways that will to pursue the President’s initiatives after leaving office in 2017. That collaboration is expected to include an institute and, potentially, a degree program. Following the lead of Clinton and Bush, the plans may include academic research, undergraduate course content, collaborate with other universities and the infrastructure to make some sort of real world impact.
Foundation chairman Martin Nesbitt noted how amazed they were by the quality of responses. He expressed gratitude to all the institutions “that expressed interest in carrying President Obama’s legacy forward.” Nesbitt added that the four universities still in the running came the farthest in meeting the foundation’s criteria, noting that each university’s bid “demonstrated a strong vision for the future Obama Presidential Library.”
To date, there are 13 Presidential Libraries in the U.S.. All but two are located in the Eastern half of the country.
For those who have not visited one, Presidential Libraries are not like traditional libraries. They do hold lots of books and documents, but they are more like a museum and archive of that president, the time period, what was happening in the country and materials accumulated by the president’s administration during his (or eventually her) administration.
Since the library tradition began with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the facilities have been built through private funds. Once opened, they then become federal facilities operated by the National Archives.
Now that the locations for the Obama library and museum have been narrowed down, Nesbitt indicated that they look forward to working with the four final institutions as they work on further refining their proposals over the next couple of months. The foundation plans on presenting their final Obama library site recommendation to the President and First Lady early next year.
By Dyanne Weiss