Archivist with Texas ties talks about balancing scholarship and spin at presidential libraries

Print
Email
|

by Laura Isensee

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:45 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 11:37 AM

The Lone Star State is now home to a third presidential library, and providing guidance is, aptly, an archivist with Texas ties.

Sharon Fawcett, assistant archivist for presidential libraries at the National Archives and Records Administration, marked 40 years with the agency last week. She's a main contact with organizers of George W. Bush's library.

Fawcett, 62, a Kansas native, still has notes from school visits to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kan., where her grandparents lived. After graduating from the University of Texas, she started her career at Lyndon B. Johnson's library in Austin. Her views on:

Managing conflicts between scholars wanting the libraries for unvarnished research and presidents using them to polish their legacies:

"They certainly can conflict. But we look at the early museum exhibit in a presidential library as more of an artifact. It comes to us when the library is built and is the interpretation by the president of his administration. We work with the foundation to temper some aspects of the exhibit. For example, it was very important for the National Archives when the Clinton exhibit opened that it included a section on the impeachment. And that was included. We don't want to gloss over controversies in an administration. We believe they should be addressed."

Key tasks for the Bush library:

"Presidential libraries are national institutions, but their success can be measured at the local level" with the development of programs that serve the community: education programs that fit in with state curriculum standards, informative and fun exhibits, lectures and conferences. "It's important for the library to be a place people in the community can come back to again and again with something new to see or hear about. That's the overriding challenge."

Laura Isensee

Print
Email
|