A primary mission of every Presidential Library is providing access to information, and at the heart of that mission are the Library’s archival collections. The George W. Presidential Library has an immense set of materials.
First, what differentiates the Bush Library collections from earlier 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 audiovisual collection 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 volume of materials provides a wonderful resource for research, but also poses a challenge for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For example, due to the volume of electronic records, when researchers were first permitted to make Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 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!