Presidential Libraries Act of 1986

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The Presidential Libraries Act of 1986 is an amendment to the original Presidential Libraries Act. The amendment was passed during the Reagan Administration. The 1986 act required foundations established for the purposes of building future presidential libraries to establish private endowments to defray part of the costs of running and administering them.

Eleven presidential libraries, beginning with the Herbert Hoover Library opening in 1962, are currently operated under the authority of the National Archives and Records Administration. It cost $64,000 annually to maintain the NARA Presidential Library system in 1955, about $15 million in 1985, and $42 million in 2003. The 1986 law requires that endowment funds total 20 percent of the federal portion of building costs on the presidential libraries. The Clinton Library opened in 2004 with an endowment of $7.2 million.

The act was subsequently amended in 2003 to require a doubling in the minimum requirement for presidential library endowments to 40 percent after the George W. Bush Library opens. The 2003 amendment was authored by Senator Byron L. Dorgan.


  • Fred A. Bernstein, "Who Should Pay for Presidential Posterity?" New York Times, June 10, 2004.

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