Is Obama’s $500 Million Library Excessive?

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President Barack Obama revealed earlier this month his plans for a presidential museum and library to be built in Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago, on the grounds of the 1893 world’s fair. While a final figure has not been released yet, estimates put the total cost of the center at $500 million or more.

The Obama Presidential Center, slated to be completed in 2021, will certainly not be the first large or expensive presidential library. George W. Bush’s library, which opened in Dallas in 2013, required the president to raise a $500 million endowment to cover short-term and long term costs. The initial price tag, according to the National Archive, was slightly under $50 million in today’s dollars. The extent that Obama’s library will exceed that figure is still unclear.

Since Franklin Roosevelt broke ground on the FDR Presidential Library Museum in 1939 in Hyde Park, New York, near his estate, presidential archives and museums have been a matter of course following every commander in chief’s tenure. Not including the upcoming Obama library, today there are 13 presidential libraries that preserve and provide access to historical materials of every president since Roosevelt.

The initial construction costs of these libraries, adjusting the cost into today’s dollars, ranges from $6 million to nearly $50 million.

Click here to see cost details on each of the 13 existing presidential libraries and museums.
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