National Archives near halfway point in review of Bush library plans


by By LAURA ISENSEE / The Dallas Morning News

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 12:17 PM

WASHINGTON - Federal archivists are close to the halfway mark in their review of plans for George W. Bush's presidential library and policy center in Dallas.

The National Archives and Records Administration is hashing out details on the building's schematic design - from the overall layout to mechanical equipment - with the nonprofit Bush library foundation and its architects.

The federal agency, responsible for ensuring the project meets its rules before taking over the library and museum, already has signed off on the design concept.

It will follow the Georgian style of architecture prominent on the Southern Methodist University campus, but offer a more modern interpretation, said Rob Saliterman, a Bush foundation spokesman.

There were tweaks related to water drainage, such as raising the building three feet, said William Harris, director of physical infrastructure and collection support for the archives.

"Once we sorted out the concept, it really progressed fairly quickly after that," he said.

Some independent consultants have joined the team building the library, including:

Kroll Inc., a risk consulting company that helped investigate the 1999 bonfire collapse at Texas A&M University. It is making sure the building meets security standards.

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc., an award-winning engineering firm that specializes in waterproofing. The firm is helping protect the archival materials. It has worked on other museums, such as the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City.

Neither company would comment on its work on the Bush library.

Advice from experts on planning Bush library

At Camp David last summer, Laura Bush met with directors of other presidential libraries. She asked for their advice, part of the advance planning for George W. Bush's library and public policy center at SMU. Here, in interviews later with The Dallas Morning News, are some of the highlights:

Jay Hakes, director of Jimmy Carter's library in Atlanta: Try to develop strong public programs and be family-friendly. "It's a tendency of museums to have the highest attendance in their first few years, and then it tapers off."

R. Duke Blackwood, who oversees Ronald Reagan's library in California: Plan ahead for the future but strike a balance with technology. "Some new museums have very interactive stuff, which is great. But if you overload the visitor with too much, you may have less of an effect."

Betty Sue Flowers, who is retiring as director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin: Build it with as much flexibility as possible, and keep the community in mind. The LBJ library planners, she said, "weren't thinking ahead of a living, breathing institution, and that's what these libraries are. It's not a mausoleum for a president"

Laura Isensee