November 8, 2016

Obama Library Records Move to Chicago

Last week, President Obama’s paper trail began winding its way from Washington to a northwest suburban warehouse, where his presidential records will be sorted by archivists before ending up in the Obama Presidential Center. 

The records—a trove of documents and artifacts—will be organized by the National Archives and Records Administration over the next several years. Eventually, the material will find a home in Jackson Park, the future site of the presidential center. The center is expected to open in 2021.   

Archivists will have their hands full: Obama’s eight years in office have produced an estimated 200 terabytes of electronic records. Regenstein library’s digital collection, for comparison, is 153 terabytes.  

"Looking back over the past eight years, our digital footprint reflects broader changes in the ways people consume information and the content closely aligns with White House priorities, milestones, and the issues Americans care most about," said Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief Digital Officer Kori Schulman. "By preserving this archive and making it accessible, we hope it will be a valuable resource in the months and years to come to help tell the story of presidency."

To deliver this prodigious pile of papers, 24 semi-truck trips from Washington to Chicago will take place over the next few months, the Chicago Tribune reported 

Also being preserved by the National Archives is the Obama administration’s social media presence. The White House said last week that the @POTUS Twitter handle will be passed on to the victor of Tuesday’s election. Obama’s tweets will be transferred to a new account, @POTUS44. 

Similar transfers of social media accounts will take place with Obama’s Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. 

While the public can thus continue to browse Obama’s social media posts, what will ultimately be exhibited in the presidential center remains a matter of conjecture. It is a safe bet, however, that Obama’s beloved White Sox cap will be on display—despite the recent glory of the other team in town.

This article was updated on November 9th to include comment from Schulman