Through artifacts, documents, audiovisual, and interactive components visitors experience many facets of President Bush’s time in the White House, including the campaign and the 2000 election, key legislative moments from the presidency, and compassionate policy initiatives enacted during his Administration.
From the beginning, it was decided the galleries should not be a strictly chronological history of the administration, but instead focus on how the key ideas or principles of freedom, responsibility, opportunity, and compassion were put into practice by the President and Mrs. Bush. Almost every section of the gallery has an interactive component of some type, encouraging visitors to explore and gather more information.
- A Nation Under Attack - Remember the events of September 11, 2001, and honor the lives lost. Artifacts, including a 22-foot piece of steel from the World Trade Center that visitors may touch, the bullhorn President Bush used to address the crowd at Ground Zero, and letters he received in the days following the attacks, make up a solemn and moving memorial to a pivotal moment in our Nation's history. Another part of the exhibit focuses on the War on Terror and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and features an interactive table that allows guests to see a range of documents, videos, and photographs.
- Life in the White House - Peek behind the closed doors of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to see what life is like inside the White House. Learn more about the First Pets, witness the pomp and circumstance that comes with a state dinner, and enjoy a film in the White House Theater about Camp David, the Bush Ranch in Texas, and the President and First Lady's sense of humor.
- Oval Office - The Oval Office exhibit is an exact replica, in scale and design, as the one in the White House during the Bush Administration. Visitors get an up-close look at the paintings, sculptures, and bookcases, and may even sit behind the reproduction of the Resolute Desk for a photograph.
- Critical Decisions - Play the role of President and dive into the decision-making process in our interactive Decision Points Theater. Hear from presidential advisers and voice how you would act as President when faced with major crises.In this theater, visitors choose from one of four scenarios: the invasion of Iraq, the “surge” in Iraq, the financial crisis, and Hurricane Katrina. Guests may act as the president and make decisions based on conflicting advice from a wide range of sources. This exercise allows the Library to present the debates on major events in the Bush Administration and to show how all leaders must make decisions based on the information they have in hand.
- Freedom Hall - Enjoy this one-of-a-kind, massive 20-foot-tall, 360-degree LED screen showing high-definition multimedia clips blending art, history, and entertainment.
- Native Texas Park - This 15-acre urban park is free and open to the public every day of the year, from sunrise to sunset. It features Native Blackland Prairie grasses; seasonal wildflowers among other native plants; clearings that provide native habitats for butterflies, birds, and other species; tree-shaded lawns; and an amphitheater. Pets are welcome.
The Library and Museum hosts Special Exhibits and various events throughout the year. The annual holiday exhibit, recreating Bush Family Christmases in the White House, has become a North Texas tradition.
Gifts to the President
Additionally, the Library maintains approximately 43,000 artifacts, primarily foreign and domestic gifts given to the President and Mrs. Bush, and other items obtained throughout the presidency at events and during trips. Most famously, perhaps, the Library has the bullhorn used by President Bush during his visit to the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. These artifacts document the American experience and are used extensively in the Library’s permanent and special exhibits.
When a President accepts a gift from a foreign Head of State, it becomes the property of the American people, as the President works on our behalf.
The President may choose to retain some gifts at the end of the term. For gifts from foreign Heads of State, the President must purchase the gift at the appraised value. For domestic gifts or gifts from foreign private citizens under a set dollar amount (currently $335), the President may keep them as they choose. For domestic gifts or gifts from foreign private citizens over the set amount, the President must declare them on their taxes. If the President does not formally indicate their intent to keep, purchase or declare the gifts, they are automatically transferred to the National Archives.
The primary mission of every Presidential Library is providing information, and at the heart of that mission are the Library’s archival collections. The Bush Library has an immense set of materials. To learn more about the Archives check out the Research section.
First, what differentiates the Bush Library collections from other presidential libraries is the size of its electronic records archive. The Library has 80 terabytes of electronic information, including 200 million emails. If these emails were printed, they would total more than 1 billion pages. Second, the textual collection consists of roughly 70 million pages of paper records. This collection includes not only Bush’s presidential records but also his gubernatorial records, which the Library holds in partnership with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Third, the audio-visual archives is enormous with about 30,000 audiovisual recordings, 227 cubic feet of photo negatives, and just over 3.8 million photographs. The Bush administration converted to digital photography in 2005, so this presidential library has many more photographs than any of its predecessors.
This immense volume of materials provides a wonderful resource for research, but also poses a challenge for the National Archives. For example, due to the volume of electronic records, when researchers were first permitted to make Freedom of Information Act requests to view Bush presidential records in January 2014, more records were requested within the first week than have been processed at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in 25 years.
On April 25, 2013, President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter, President George H. W. Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush, President William J. Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush, and President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama joined more than 10,000 other guests on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas to dedicate the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. That dedication was the culmination of great effort, and the beginning of a great mission for the 13th Presidential Library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. Like the other Federally-owned Presidential libraries, the Bush Presidential Library serves as a portal to the National Archives and its vast holdings at 45 locations around the nation.
To learn more about the facility - location, building facts, and construction - visit The Facility section.