Presidential archives

Can I just complain for a moment at the appalling state of our nation’s presidential library online offerings? I happened to click one of the credit links to a photo from the Eisenhower Library and got a “page not found” error because they’ve changed the site structure once again and now the photo is nowhere to be found.

My personal website [warning: politics] is almost 5 years old and not a single incoming link made during that time would be broken today. This site is 2-and-a-half years old and only two or three of links made in that time would be broken.

Further, in order to search for photos, they all direct you to a generic ARC search page and give weak instructions on how to find material related to the president in question. The few photos that are available are awful little 256-color GIFs that have scratches and dust, and no color- or fade-correction. A great deal of the work I do to create this site is just making those kinds of images presentable.

These people are the keepers of our nation’s presidential heritage and history, set up and supported by the American people. Is it too much to ask that they post clean, high-resolution images on their own sites and keep them available and link-enabled? Here is a photo of the Carter Oval Office on the National Archives site*; compare it to what I finally managed to produce that wouldn’t embarrass me to post.

* This is actually a University of Maryland mirror of some National Archive resources. It actually offers high-res images and makes them linkable.

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6 thoughts on “Presidential archives

  1. Wow. I agree. I was on Truman’s site the other day . . amazed at how much stuff he has ont here for photos, incredible really, but the interface for browsing photos is NOT user friendly (like prev or next buttons). Going to the other potus sites is awful for the most part.

  2. LOL . . .and oh yeah . . . that Carter pic is the one I’ve always thought from that angle it looks like the floor of a cheap cabin. 🙂

  3. I wonder if the thought is that there are so few people interested in these things that they don’t have to stay on top of them. Look at the WHHA and WH websites for example. The White House Museum website outdoes them both with photographs of different eras, different rooms, etc. The WHHA website has not even kept up with all of Laura Bush’s restorations.
    – Dennis

  4. Yeah, but the physical libraries themselves have plenty of visitors, and news organizations always need historical photos. I get several e-mails a month from news media asking about specific photos. If they can keep the doors open on the brick-and-mortar libraries, they ought to be able to pay someone to do some actual preservation/restoration of photos and post them online. That’s *half* the mandate of the libraries in the first place: to preserve and make available the papers and other materials of the president. Right?

  5. Absolutely right.

    Derek, my personal congratulations on the special thanks given to the White House Museum website on the C-Span presentation.

  6. I heartely second what Peter says. You have done such a terrific job here Derek. You deserve far more kudos than you get!

    Now maybe if we can get the WHHA to start paying attention…..

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