Obama Foundation Annual Report 2018


From Hope to History

Our Oral History Partnership

The Foundation recently announced that Columbia University, along with partners at the University of Chicago and University of Hawai i, had been selected to produce the official oral history of the Obama presidency.

Over the next five years, these institutions will conduct interviews with roughly 400 people, including Cabinet secretaries, assistants to the President, mid- and lower-level administration staff, journalists, and outside figures—Republican and Democrat—both in Washington and beyond, who can speak to this president’s eight years in office. The project will also examine Mrs. Obama’s work, initiatives, and legacy as First Lady. Partners in Chicago and Hawai i will explore how both communities shaped President and Mrs. Obama’s pre-presidential lives.

Columbia and its academic partners will have full control over all editorial aspects of the project, and they expect to make the oral histories publicly available online by 2026.

Stories of the 2008 Election

On President Obama’s 57th birthday, Louise Bernard, Director of the Obama Presidential Center Museum, asked our global audience for some help. She asked every person—whether they were young or old, in the U.S. or overseas, fired up and ready to go or shivering in the cold on inauguration day—to help us tell the story of the historic 2008 presidential election. We asked them to submit their photos, audio recordings, written reflections— anything that would help us honor the tenth anniversary of President Obama’s first presidential victory.

We couldn’t tell the story of the Obama Presidency without incorporating the voices of people who lived through, worked for, or witnessed this historic presidency.

The Records of the Obama Presidency*

In addition to building a Museum that immerses the public in the story of President and Mrs. Obama, we also want to help the public engage with the vast historical record of the Obama Presidency.

One of the primary ways to understand a presidency is through its records—through the papers, memos, drafts, speeches, texts, even postits—and now emails, blog posts, and tweets—that detail and document an administration. President Obama’s tenure came at an inflection point in record keeping: not at the dawn of the digital era, but as it fully took hold. Unlike other administrations, the vast majority of records created in the Obama White House—estimated at more than 95 percent—were born digital.

That’s why we are partnering with NARA, the National Archives and Record Administration, to digitize the remaining five percent of records— some 30 million pages—that exist on paper to create a comprehensive digital archive at the first fully digital presidential library. Our goal is to increase access to the records so that anyone can engage and study them, no matter where they live.

Though the Foundation will fund the digitization of these records, a special team of NARA archivists who are dedicated to preserving, reviewing, and providing access to the Obama presidential records will directly oversee this work and ensure the process and product meets all their relevant policies, regulations, and best practices. Throughout the entire process, those NARA archivists will maintain control and ownership of both the paper originals and digitized records and bear responsibility for making them available to the public in accordance with the Presidential Records Act, as they have for previous administrations.

*These records are owned and controlled by the Barack Obama Library, a NARA entity

Graph stating 95% of Obama's records are digital.
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