This week, National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) Inspector General (IG) issued an audit report critical of how Presidential Libraries are inventorying and preserving the over 500,000 artifacts entrusted to their care. For example, of the approximately 100,000 artifacts maintained by the Ronald Reagan Library, the IG’s office found the library had the information necessary to locate less than 20 percent of them.
The audit which was completed on October 26, 2007, examined the management of Presidential artifacts at six Presidential Libraries: The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, the John F. Kennedy Library, the Gerald R. Ford Library, the Ronald Reagan Library, the George Bush Library, and the William J. Clinton Library. Unfortunately, the audit has not yet been made available online.
The audit called on the Archives to strengthen accountability and control over its artifacts. The IG found that:
- NARA is not accounting for artifacts in a timely manner;
- Technical and management controls over the automated database used by NARA to manage its collection need to be strengthened;
- NARA should deaccession items that do not warrant long-term retention and drain scarce resources from higher priority artifacts;
- Some artifacts are not maintained in appropriate space; and
- NARA does not have a comprehensive list identifying “at risk” artifacts in need of preservation.
In response to the audit, Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein said, “The National Archives encouraged the Inspector General’s office to perform this audit. These artifacts are a very important part of the preservation of our national heritage and I endorse the recommendations in the final report.”