Formally known as the Obama Presidential Center, estimated to cost at least $500 million, the project will include a library housing the presidential archives, a museum devoted to Obama’s eight-year tenure and the headquarters of the Obama Foundation, the organization that will fund the design, construction and planning of the center.
After selecting architects and a site for the Obama Presidential Center, President Barack Obama faces another key decision: choosing a director for his library and museum.
The job hasn’t been advertised yet, but if recent practices hold a director could be in on the job by early next year.
Alan Lowe, who in July took over as head of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, knows the drill. Lowe, 52, was the inaugural director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas. Lowe took the post during planning stages for the library in 2009, four years before the facility opened.
“It was never a dull day as director of a presidential library,” said Lowe, who oversaw a library with 43,000 artifacts, including the bullhorn Bush used to speak from the rubble of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks.
“The raw material of history,” Lowe said.
The Obama Presidential Center, now being designed, is scheduled to open in 2021 in Jackson Park. The government will administer its archives and museum; the nonprofit Obama Foundation will oversee its own offices and activity space.
At the Bush center, Lowe said he learned it’s important to keep its museum “relevant and exciting for people” because after the first year or so, attendance tends to drop off.
The center opened in May 2013, drawing more than 230,000 visitors through the end of that year, about 500,000 in 2014 and about 300,000 in 2015, center spokeswoman Hannah Abney said. “We’re on track to be close to 2015 numbers this year,” she said.
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