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George W. Bush Presidential Library opens this week, chads and all

April 23, 2013|By Jenny Hendrix

President Obama and all four living ex-presidents will attend the official dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library on Thursday on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. 

According to the website, the library's mission will be to serve "as a resource for the study of the life and career of George W. Bush, while also promoting a better understanding of the presidency, American history, and important issues of public policy."

Besides a library and public policy center, the brick and limestone complex will host a museum, which includes a Decision Points Theater, where visitors can face the tough choices of Bush's controversial presidency, including the invasion of Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and the bank bailout. 

According to the Washington Post, Bush asked the museum's designers to simply present the facts and let visitors decide whether he made the right call. Other exhibits will feature a container of chads, the Florida punch-ballot residue that gummed up the 2000 election; the bullhorn Bush used to address rescue workers at ground zero; and a full-scale model of the Oval Office.  

PHOTOS: George W. Bush’s presidential library

The Bush library will be the 13th presidential library overseen by the National Archives and Records Administration. It's the first presidential library of the digital age, however, and will include about 80 terabytes of electronic records, including 200 million emails from the White House email system and 4 million digital photographs. 

There's plenty of old-fashioned paper, too. Presidential records housed at SMU include more than 70 million pages of text, including files from White House staffers such as Condoleezza Rice, records of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, and condolence mail received by the State Department in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Although the availability of this material will likely be of interest to those looking to reexamine Bush's tempestuous tenure in office, scholars will have to be patient: The Library's records are still being processed, and will not be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests until January 20, 2014. 

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