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For Immediate Release
Contact: Steven W. Barnes, (609) 258-5988

Museum programs in presidential libraries not reaching potential

February 3, 2005

A new report from Princeton 's Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies claims that the museum programs in presidential libraries are not reaching their potential and that there is great risk in the National Archives policy to depend so highly on private organizations to fund these programs. The report reflects the findings and recommendations of a group of experts in museums, public history and presidential libraries brought together last April at the Center in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton .

“Exhibits and educational and public programs can become much greater resources to the public,” according to the report. Among its recommendations are greater use of strategic planning, clearer policies on the development of exhibits and other programs, better use of resources, more frequent collaboration among the presidential libraries, and stronger leadership on museum-related functions from the Office of Presidential Libraries in the National Archives.

The report also argues “that there is considerable risk to the present and future health of these presidential museums in current National Archives policy that requires the libraries to rely so heavily on support from non-profit partners for most or all funding for core museum functions serving the general public.” The Princeton meeting participants concluded that “too little is known about the priorities, resources and influence of these key organizations,” and proposed that the Congress and the National Archives give this matter increased attention, including more open and formal discussion of the issues.

Six more detailed recommendations in the report address these overarching issues and include a call for a special professionally facilitated conference of presidential library stakeholders, with allowance for independent perspectives, to discuss policies and resources for the presidential libraries.

The twelve participants in the Princeton meeting included Willard Boyd, former president of the University of Iowa and of the Field Museum in Chicago, Bruce Craig, executive director of the National Coalition for History in Washington, Larry Hackman, former director of the Truman Presidential Museum and Library, Harold Skramstad, former director of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, and Robert Warner, former Archivist of the United States. The discussion was chaired by Professor Stanley Katz, director of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies.  Katz is the former president of the American Council of Learned Societies and of the Organization of American Historians .

The eight page report, Museums in Presidential Libraries: A First Report on Policies, Practices and Performance, is available in PDF version at http://www.princeton.edu/culturalpolicy/mpl or in hard copy by contacting the Center at 609-258-5180. A 37-page memo, Presidential Libraries: A Background Paper on Their Museums and Their Public Programs , prepared for the Princeton meeting, is available through the same channel.

The report and background memo will be distributed to the National Archives, the presidential libraries and their support organizations, appropriate professional associations and policy centers, and to the Congressional subcommittees that have direct oversight of the National Archives. For further information contact Larry McGill at lmcgill@princeton.edu or Stanley N. Katz at snkatz@princeton.edu .

Princeton University Home Tel: (609) 258-5180; E-mail: artspol@princeton.edu