Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace

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Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace

The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum is the presidential library and final resting place of Richard Milhous Nixon, the 37th President of the United States. Located in Yorba Linda, California, the library is one of twelve administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. From its original dedication in 1990 until becoming a federal facility on July 11, 2007, the library and museum was operated by a private foundation and was known as the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace. The nine acre (36,000 m²) campus is located at 18001 Yorba Linda Boulevard in Yorba Linda, California and incorporates the National Historic Landmarked Richard Nixon Birthplace where Nixon was born in 1913 and spent his childhood. The facility is now jointly operated between NARA and the Richard Nixon Foundation.

Background prior to dedication

Traditionally, materials and records of a U.S. president were considered to be his personal property upon leaving office. The Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon's subsequent resignation from office complicated the issue, however.

In September 1974, Richard Nixon made an agreement with the head of the General Services Administration, Arthur F. Sampson, to turn over most materials from his presidency, including tape recordings of conversations he had made in the White House; however, the recordings were to be destroyed after September 1, 1979 if directed by Nixon or by September 1, 1984 or his death otherwise. Alarmed that Nixon's tapes may be lost, Congress abrogated the Nixon-Sampson Agreement by passing S.4016, signed into law by President Gerald Ford on in December 1974 as the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act. It applied specifically to materials from the Nixon presidency, directing NARA to take ownership of the materials and process them as quickly as possible. Private materials were to be returned to Nixon.

As a result of the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, President Nixon's White House papers and tapes were held by the National Archives, thus they could not be transferred to a facility in Yorba Linda. Funding to build the Nixon Library came from private sources. The estimated cost to build the institution was $25 million. Ground was broken by Julie Nixon Eisenhower, daughter of President and Mrs. Nixon, in December 1988.

Dedication

The original Library & Birthplace was officially dedicated on July 19, 1990. Former President Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon were present, as were President George H. W. Bush, then the President of the United States, former President Gerald Ford, former President Ronald Reagan, and first ladies Barbara Bush, Betty Ford, and Nancy Reagan. A crowd of 50,000 gathered for the ceremony. At the dedication, Nixon said, "Nothing we have ever seen matches this moment - to be welcomed home again."

Facilities

The museum, housed in a 52,000-square-foot (4,800 m2) building, offers a narrative of Nixon's life and career. Behind the museum is the birthplace, which was constructed by Nixon's father using a homebuilding kit, and restored to appear as it was in 1910. President and Mrs. Nixon are buried on the grounds, just a few feet from the birthplace. Since California prohibits burial of remains on private property, the intended burial plot at the Library had to be deeded to a local church who classified the plot as a cemetery.

The Nixon Library compound also contains the Loker Center and Annenberg Court, a 38,000-square-foot (3,500 m2) wing with a Special Exhibit room and an exact replica of the East Room of the White House that is used as an event space; the East Room can be rented for events such as weddings and business meetings. This wing is under the control of the Nixon Foundation.

Permanent museum collection

There is an extensive collection of memorabilia, formal clothing, and photographs of Nixon, his wife Pat, and their children. This collection includes an assortment of bronze figures of world leaders who had important relations with Nixon as President or as Vice President under President Eisenhower (1953-1961). The leaders' bodies have been accurately recreated in lightweight bronze over a papier-mâché frame, and they are dressed in their actual clothing. The U.S. government limousine used by President Nixon throughout his presidency, a customized 1969 Lincoln Continental, is on display in the Domestic affairs gallery.

Lieutenant Colonel Gene Boyer, President Nixon's Chief Helicopter Pilot, secured the President's VH-3A "Sea King" helicopter, tail number 150617, to be on permanent display on the library grounds. The helicopter was in the presidential fleet from 1961 to 1976, transporting Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, and many foreign heads of state and government. Boyer flew President Nixon on his final flight from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base on August 9, 1974 in this aircraft.

Transition to National Archives

In January 2004, the United States Congress passed legislation that provided for the establishment of a federally operated Nixon Presidential Library. Specifically, the legislation amended the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974, which mandated that Nixon's Presidential Materials were to remain in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Under this new legislation, the materials are being moved from NARA's Archives II facility in College Park, Maryland to the federally operated facility in Yorba Linda.

In March 2005, the then-Archivist of the United States, Allen Weinstein, and the Reverend John H. Taylor, then-Executive Director of the privately run Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace Foundation (now Richard Nixon Foundation), exchanged letters on the requirements that allowed the Nixon Library & Birthplace to become the twelfth federally funded presidential library, operated and staffed by NARA in conjunction with the Nixon Foundation. In April, 2006, Weinstein appointed Timothy Naftali director of the Library. On July 11, 2007 the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum was officially welcomed into the federal presidential library system.

In the winter of 2006, NARA began transferring 30,000 presidential gifts from the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff in College Park, Maryland to Yorba Linda. Later that year, the institution began the transition from a private library to a federal presidential library, which included adding retrofits to the facility to house Nixon's presidential and pre-presidential materials according to NARA standards. NARA assisted the Library & Birthplace staff and the Nixon Foundation in planning for appropriate space to house these materials.

Library collections

The Archives, which opened in March 1994, house approximately 6.2 million pages of records as well as extensive photographs, film reels, and recordings. Approximately 46 million pages of official White House records from the Nixon Administration are stored at NARA's Archives II facility in College Park, Maryland in accordance with the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974, and will be transferred to the newly-federal Yorba Linda facility from 2007-2009. The Nixon Presidential Materials Staff (nicknamed the "Nixon Project") had no previous affiliation with the Nixon Library, but lent materials to the Library & Birthplace in the past. Upon completion of the transfer of Nixon papers, gifts of state and memorabilia, the Nixon Materials Project will be discontinued. Once the transfer from the Nixon Presidential Materials project is complete, it will hold all of Nixon's presidential as well as his pre- and post-presidential papers. In spring 2010, under legislation passed in January 2004, the Nixon Presidential Materials were moved from the National Archives facilities in College Park, Maryland to the Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.

As of July 1, 2010, all processed Nixon Presidential Materials are available for research use at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California. The National Archives in College Park maintains a small number of reference copies of Nixon White House Tapes and White House Communications Agency (WHCA) videotapes. These are duplicative of material available for research in Yorba Linda.

Watergate exhibit dispute

A new Archives-curated exhibit on the Watergate scandal, due to have opened July 1, 2010, was postponed when the Nixon Foundation filed a written objection to the new exhibit. NARA stated a committee would review the objection but gave no timeline for when that process would be concluded. The exhibit opened on March 31, 2011.

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