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Inside the Obama Presidential Archives


April 5, 2019

Respecting tradition while embracing change.

The Obama Foundation is committed to supporting the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to lay the foundation for enhanced public access and engagement with the archives of the Obama presidency. Learn more about NARA’s work to make the archive available digitally and how artifacts and records will be made available at the future Obama Presidential Center.

Obama Presidential Records At-a-Glance

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

All of the official presidential records of the Obama administration are owned and managed by NARA. This includes 1.5 billion pages of “born digital” records—emails, PDFs, digital photos, tweets—that have no paper equivalents—along with roughly 30 million pages of paper documents and 30,000 physical artifacts. Together, these “born-digital” and digitized records and artifacts will make up  NARA’s Obama Presidential Library. Opens in a new tab

NARA will maintain ownership and management of these records and make them available under the same standards and practices under which they have always administered records, in accordance with the  Presidential Records Act. Opens in a new tab

President Obama works at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office
President Barack Obama participates in a Twitter live question and answer session in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Dec. 3, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama speaks with Valerie Jarrett and Marty Nesbitt.
President Barack Obama pauses at the George W. Bush library

Just as with other Presidential Libraries, NARA will have a distinct staff dedicated to preserving, reviewing, and providing access to the Presidential Records of the Obama Administration. They will help the public, including historians and other researchers, find and access the born-digital and digitized records.

For the 30 million pages that will be digitized, the original paper documents will be preserved by NARA at a facility they administer, and made available to the public under the same policies and practices as other digitized NARA collections.

Considering the increasing volume of born-digital records,  NARA’s creation of a digital library aligns with changes in the expectations of the public that NARA’s holdings be available free and online. Opens in a new tab

Archives and Artifacts at the Obama Presidential Center

The Obama Presidential Center Museum will tell the story of President Obama’s historic path to the presidency framed within the larger story of American history—including a spotlight on Chicago’s prominent role in the civil rights movement and its history of community engagement.

A rendering of the Museum Building is shown from the North.
Viewing 1 of 3 items

While the Museum itself will be paid for and managed by the Foundation, a substantial number of the records and artifacts on display will be loaned to the Foundation by NARA, allowing visitors to engage with presidential items as they do at other NARA-run presidential museums.

This may include items such as manuscripts of President Obama’s major speeches or the many state gifts presented to President and Mrs. Obama by world leaders. These loaned records and artifacts will be subject to NARA’s standards for the display of any NARA record or artifact. Some examples from the NARA-controlled archives will appear physically in display cases or digitally.

The Museum’s collections and curatorial staff is determining plans to provide research access to any items collected by the Obama Presidential Center Museum. Museum exhibits will include a range of objects from our own collections, or from other institutions, alongside those on loan from NARA’s holdings.

President Obama works at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office

Ready for more?

Read our full fact sheet for more information about the Obama Presidential archives.