Tribune Print Share Text

The George W. Bush Presidential Library

Q&A with Director Alan C. Lowe

Created date

March 22nd, 2011

When the George W. Bush Presidential Library opens in 2013 on the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU), it will be the 13th library in the National Archives Presidential library system and the third located in Texas. Director Alan C. Lowe, tapped in 2009 by the National Archives and Records Administration to lead the library through the critical period of building and development, will be speaking this month at Highland Springs, an Erickson Living community in north Dallas. The Erickson Tribune recently had the chance to sit down with Lowe and chat about his vision for the George W. Bush Library and what it will mean for north Texas. Tribune: During this season of planning and development, what is your vision for the George W. Bush Library? Lowe: Presidential libraries have always been about the big three archives, museum and education. To that end, we want our archives to be a useful resource to this community and beyond. We want to present innovative museum exhibits and put together a series of educational programs that raise awareness of civics and public policy. Tribune: With such a vast collection, how do you cull through the material and decide which items will find their way into the museum and library? Lowe: In terms of the archives, our first job is to get our arms around what we have get intellectual control of the collection, so to speak. If you add up all the electronic e-mails and all the paper documents from the Bush administration, it amounts to just under 700 million pages. Those records won t be available to the public until 2014 under the Presidential Records Act. So our job right now is to logically process those documents in a way that will be relevant to researchers. It s a challenge because we don t know what the topic of the day will be in 2014. Obviously, we think the war in Iraq and the war on terror will be of interest. It s quite an undertaking, and our archival staff of 17 is moving full steam ahead. On the museum side, we ve worked closely with the President and Mrs. Bush to choose themes that were important to them. These include freedom, responsibility, opportunity, compassion, and decision-making. Now we re into writing the script and selecting the artifacts that best illustrate these themes. There are a few items that we ve known from day one would be included, like the bullhorn that President Bush used at the World Trade Center site and the gun that was captured with Saddam Hussein. Tribune: Can you fill us in on some of the key features of the museum? Lowe: We are planning a lot of interactive exhibits, including a theater where the audience has to make decisions based on given information. Another key attraction will be the Situation Room reconstructed in one of the classrooms. During the Bush presidency, the White House Situation Room was rebuilt. When they took apart the old one, they put it in huge crates and sent it here. I think kids will find that very cool. Tribune: You mentioned that you want the library and museum to serve as a resource for the SMU community, the Dallas community, and beyond. What types of educational programming will be available Lowe: Education is such an important component of what we do. The question we have to answer is how can we become a proactive force for education in the community? We had a great meeting with teachers from the Dallas Independent School District last December and talked about ways we could support them in the classroom. We brought in education specialists from the LBJ and George H.W. Bush Libraries, as well as from the Center for the Legislative Archives. It was a brainstorming session that included traditional elements such as lesson planning and teacher workshops, but it also went beyond that to online resources, simulations, and interactive activities. Tribune: What will the George W. Bush Library bring to the community when it opens in 2013? Lowe: There s a certain excitement whenever a Presidential library opens. It also generates economic and intellectual benefits for a community. For SMU, it will be a real resource to know there are nearly 700 million documents the raw material of history on campus. For the north Texas community, I hope the Bush Center will be a fun, educational, and interesting place to visit. We want people to leave thinking about an issue or event and maybe having learned something they didn t know before.