Library Science

Some pointers for George W. on how to display his legacy.

DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: After months of speculation, I see that you have practically settled on Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, as the site for your presidential library and museum. You can’t help what people will say about your administration, but you can certainly influence what they say about your library. So as director of Austin’s Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, I thought I’d offer three quick words of advice. First, consider the example of that other president who left office during an unpopular war. When his library opened, Johnson said, “It is all here: the story of our time with the bark off.” So eager was he to remove the bark that he insisted that more museum space be given to the Vietnam War, and he personally supervised the selection of protest letters to be sure that really bad ones were included. Second, remember that in ten years’ time, the schoolkids who come to your museum won’t even have been alive on September 11—they need to learn not just about you and your biography and presidency but about those times and how they shaped all of us. And a final plea: When you talk with your architect, whoever he or she might be, remember your future employees and how they will need practical things: classrooms for educational programs; catering facilities near reception spaces; and a freight elevator big enough to hold a former first lady and her Secret Service detail, the president of Mexico and his guards, including dogs, and the Declaration of Independence, in its traveling case—all at the same time.

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