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Presidential Documents   Tags: executive, federal, president  

A guide to locating presidential documents.
Last Updated: Oct 25, 2012 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Database Access

Many resources listed in these guides require University of Denver or University of Denver Sturm College of Law IP addresses for access. Other resources, such as Westlaw and Lexis, require individual user accounts and passwords.



Locating Presidential Documents depends upon the time period created and type of document. Before the presidency of Herbert Hoover there was no law regarding the ownership and archival of the documents created by the President and his staff. Because of this, only a limited number of documents are available from before 1929. Beginning in 1929 (the Hoover administration), papers from individual presidencies were donated to Presidential Libraries. The Presidential Libraries Acts of 1955 and 1986 governs the donations and administration of Presidential Libraries (a listing of which may be found under the 'Presidential Libraries' tab of this Guide.)

Before 1981 all the papers created by the President became the personal property of the President. Therefore, the President could decide which documents to donate or make public. The Presidential Records Act of 1978 (effective Jan. 20, 1981) made the papers of the President the property of the United States, and therefore since the Reagan administration (except for the Nixon administration), presidential documents are able to be requested under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) beginning 5 years after the President leaves office.

The papers and recordings created during the Nixon administration are governed by the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974 (PRMPA). In 2004 the PRMPA was ammended to remove the requirement that Nixon materials must remain within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In the spring of 2010, most of the documents housed in Washington were moved to the Nixon Library and Birthplace in California.

This Guide provides resources for Presidential Document research when you know the type of document, type of publication that contains the document, or the time period of the document. General resources for researching Presidential Documents are listed on this page.

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