Monday, August 10, 2020

The Barack Obama Presidential Library is Digitally Open.


In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM is the introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. I believe presentism is a form of cultural bias, and it creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. I'm well aware that historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present articles that are fact-based and well researched, without interjecting any of my personal opinions.

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The Barack Obama Presidential Library is the 14th Presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), a federal agency.
About the Library
Unlike other Presidential Libraries administered by NARA, the Barack Obama Presidential Library is the first fully digital presidential library. An estimated 95% of the Presidential records of the Obama administration were born-digital, such as photos, videos, word processing documents, tweets, emails, and other common digital formats. 

NARA and the Obama Foundation will work together to digitize the unclassified textual Presidential records to create a digital archive. Archivist of the United States David Ferriero discussed the recent digitization Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NARA and the Foundation on his blog.

Following digitization, NARA will store and preserve the original records and the Obama administration artifacts in an existing NARA facility that meets NARA’s standards for archival storage. A dedicated staff, at that location, will be responsible for caring for the records and artifacts. (Currently, the Obama administration materials are housed in a temporary facility in Hoffman Estates, IL, which is not open to the public.)

NARA has compiled answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the new digital model for the Obama Presidential Library.

Obama Presidential records are administered in accordance with the requirements of the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and will not be subject to public Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests until January 20, 2022. NARA is committed to meeting all our obligations under the Presidential Records Act and FOIA. The digitization and Presidential records review processes are separate and distinct.

About the Obama Presidential Center
Why the Obama Presidental Library/Center belongs in Chicago:
  1. In 1983 he worked as a community organizer in Chicago.
  2. Taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.
  3. In 1989, Obama met  Chicago native, Michelle Robinson (married October 3, 1992) when he was employed as a summer associate at the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin.
  4. Elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996, reelected to the Illinois Senate in 1998,  and was re-elected again in 2002.
  5. In 2003, Obama became chairman of the Illinois Senate's Health and Human Services Committee.
  6. U.S. Senator from Illinois (2005–2008).
  7. President of the United States - from Illinois (2009–2012).
  8. President of the United States - from Illinois (2013–2017).
The Obama Foundation is constructing the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago's South Side in Jackson Park. The Center will be a privately operated, non-federal organization.
A substantial number of items (records and artifacts) on display at the Obama Presidential Center will be loaned to the Obama Foundation by NARA, allowing visitors to engage with presidential materials.


Barack Obama’s Presidential Library Hits a Roadblock.
  The roughly $500 million dollar project, which will be set in Chicago’s Jackson Park, is facing new demands by the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office.

More than three years after he left the White House, Barack Obama’s Presidential Center has hit another roadblock on its long path to construction. Approval for the center—which is set in Chicago’s leafy Jackson Park and slated to cost some $500 million—is facing a new delay following a demand by the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office (HPO) for “additional design reviews.” The reviews come as part of the Federal Highway Administration’s larger approval process, which is nearing its end.

The HPO is a relatively little-known state agency whose purview, reports public television channel WTTW, includes evaluating construction projects that may impact “cultural resources” in the state of Illinois. The HPO’s main concern is the center’s potential impact on Jackson Park itself, a verdant 500-acre expanse that debuted in the 1893 World’s Fair and was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who’s also responsible for Central Park in New York City.

The center, which is being designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, has been heavily criticized for its proposed destruction of a connection zone linking Jackson Park with nearby Midway Plaisance Park.

Indeed, so great is this worry that those critical of the center—such as local watchdog groups Jackson Park Watch and Protect Our Parks—have even suggested that the complex is entirely relocated out of Jackson Park to a new site on Chicago’s South Side. “I’m all in favor of this investment on the South Side,” Protect Our Parks president Herb Caplan told the Chicago Tribune last year after his group filed a lawsuit to relocate the center from Jackson Park. “I’ve argued that the South Side would be better served if the OPC were built in another community like Woodlawn and South Shore.”

Beyond the legal maneuvers, the relocation option has been supported by prominent civic associations such as the Cultural Landscape Foundation. The opposition has also made its way to Washington, D.C. since the park and nearby boulevard are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The City of Chicago has recently said that relocating the Center is not a viable option.

The new HPS wrinkle has created a monthlong delay for a large-scale Memorandum of Agreement, overseen by the Federal Highway Administration, that was supposed to be presented to “consulting parties” last month. The meeting will now take place on July 16, at which time measures to mitigate the center’s impact on Jackson Park should be revealed.

While it’s too soon to gauge whether such measures will calm HPO’s worries, even if they’re dismissed, the center must still contend with the Protect Our Park’s pending lawsuit to stop it from being built on public parkland. For these activist groups, the goal is not to merely “mitigate” the center’s potential impact, but to avoid it entirely. With the delayed meeting merely days away, the center’s next move—and possible fate—will soon be revealed.

By David Kaufman
July 13, 2020

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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