Eisenhower Library: From Life to Legacy

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Today’s post comes from Rebecca Brenner, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

Photograph of Eisenhower Library Abilene, Kansas, ca. 1962. (National Archives Identifier 12170294 )

Photograph of the Eisenhower Library Abilene, Kansas, ca. 1962. (National Archives Identifier 12170294 )

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower left the White House in 1960, he almost immediately began work on his Presidential library in his hometown of Abilene, KS.

His involvement with his library continued until the end of his life, when the library’s staff took over the responsibility of preserving his legacy.

The Eisenhower Presidential Library holds documents of President Eisenhower’s administration, as well as manuscript materials from General Eisenhower’s military career.

As early as February 1961, a small staff of archivists and a photographer worked to arrange 11 million pages of manuscript material that was pouring in from the White House. They also received books, photographs, and sound recordings.

The formal building dedication took place on May 2, 1962.

In March 1969, the library changed dramatically when President Eisenhower died.

Portrait of Dwight Eisenhower  which hangs in the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas. (Eisenhower Library)

Portrait of Dwight Eisenhower, which hangs in the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, KS. (Eisenhower Library, National Archives)

Radios and television networks broadcasted his funeral on the grounds of the library.  His death caused an upsurge in interest in his life and administration.

Also after his death, archivists and librarians could no longer use President Eisenhower’s expertise and memories to arrange collections.

Since Eisenhower’s death, the library has worked to acquire more manuscript collections, as well as museum objects. Representing President Eisenhower’s life, his library holds invaluable cultural and military artifacts from his era.

Since President Eisenhower was especially interested in the American West, his library holds an extensive collection of western art.

The Western History Conference is a biennial event that attracts hundreds of western history scholars to visit the Eisenhower Library.

The manuscript collection has expanded to contain 19.5 million pages. Documents from his Presidency include the papers of key players in his administration.

In addition to manuscript materials, the printed materials and audiovisual holdings contain “rare and exotic” volumes, which had been gifts to the President. These items include rare artwork, as well as signed books from Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Konrad Adenauer, and many American statesmen.

Nearly 50 years after his death, the Eisenhower Library shares his legacy with millions of visitors and researchers every year.

Visit the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library’s website to learn more about our 34th President.

Photograph of Eisenhower Library Abilene, Kansas at night, ca. 1962. (National Archives Identifier 12170296)

Photograph of Eisenhower Library Abilene, Kansas at night, ca. 1962. (National Archives Identifier 12170296)

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