Coinciding with Election Day on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, DJTrumpLibrary.com was finally updated. The website includes 3D renderings of a proposed version of the 45th President's Presidential Library. Located at 1 MAGA Lane in Nogales, Arizona — abutting the US-Mexican border — the facilities would include a COVID Memorial, with a reflecting pool that looks out towards the Alt-Right Auditorium, which features weekly screenings of Birth of a Nation and other films. There's also a Criminal Records Room and Wall of Criminality, an interactive Tax Evasion 101 exhibit, and of course, a Twitter Gallery. During your visit, you can also indulge in Criminal Luxury at the adjacent Trump Hotel and indulge in the Freedom Fry Fountain at Drump's Diner (full menu available online).
This is, clearly, a satire; although it was designed by an actual professional architect (pro bono, of course), according to Fast Company.
He purchased the website's domain name, djtrumplibrary.com, shortly after the 2016 election and designed the building model as a lark, starting with a basement reflecting pool. "That was originally dedicated, as a parody, to all the people we were going to lose in World War 3," says the architect. "I knew something was going to go very wrong with this presidency, so having a memorial for some tragedy was the first design move I made."
Whereas past Presidents have made plans for their own Presidential Libraries while still in office, little is known about if or how the history of Trump administration shall be preserved for the future. Trump has suggested that he's looked at a few locations; details are sparse, but there are rumors that he had been looking to buy a swampy trailer park about 12 miles from Mar-a-Lago anyway.
And almost without a doubt, Trump will try to find a way to swing these facilities for profit — though whether that's possible remains to be seen.
The National Archives and Records Administration has overseen the Presidential libraries for every US president since Herbert Hoover. These facilities have traditionally contained research libraries, where anyone can look up unclassified papers and public records from that President's administration, as well as other personal documents and historical affects to contextualize their time in office. In many cases, the facilities include a museum as well. Officially, from archives.gov:
The Presidential Library system is composed of fourteen Presidential Libraries. These facilities are overseen by the Office of Presidential Libraries, in the National Archives and Records Administration.
Presidential Libraries are archives and museums, bringing together the documents and artifacts of a President and his administration and presenting them to the public for study and discussion without regard for political considerations or affiliations. Presidential Libraries and Museums, like their holdings, belong to the American people.
Many Presidential papers and records had been lost, destroyed, sold for profit, or ruined by poor storage conditions. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought a better alternative. Learn more about the Presidential Libraries History
Congress legislated this policy, passing the Presidential Libraries Act in 1955. Through archives, museums, and public programs, Presidential Libraries continue to preserve the documents and artifacts of our Presidents, helping us learn about our nation and our democracy. Learn more about Laws and Regulations
In 2017, however, NARA announced a "new model for the preservation and accessibility of Presidential records" relating to the Obama Presidential Center, which is being built in Chicago. As the New York Times explains:
In a break with precedent, there will be no research library on site, and none of Mr. Obama's official presidential records. Instead, the Obama Foundation will pay to digitize the roughly 30 million pages of unclassified paper records from the administration so they can be made available online.
And the entire complex, including the museum chronicling Mr. Obama's presidency, will be run by the foundation, a private nonprofit entity, rather than by the National Archives and Records Administration, the federal agency that administers the libraries and museums for all presidents going back to Herbert Hoover.
Digitizing archives for remote access is all good and well. But there are concerns about letting the nonprofit Obama Foundation oversee the facilities, and what it might mean to have the archives scattered without any centralized curation. As Bob Clark, former director of the FDR library, explained in an op-ed:
Yes, the Obama presidential records will be preserved by the National Archives, but these will not be held in conjunction with nonpresidential record materials that can demonstrate nuance and context. Instead, all of these related materials will be donated to universities or the Library of Congress, purchased by collectors, or simply lost to history. Government transparency and accountability will be reduced by creating geographic and financial barriers to historians, scholars, journalists, and citizens trying to piece together the story of these times and the actions of executive branch officials.
Not great. In fact, Nixon tried to pull a similar move to control his legacy, although he ultimately relinquished control to NARA (mostly because the Nixon Foundation was running out of cash flow).
In a 2019 article on Splinter, Jack Crosbie explained that this could all:
…set a precedent for Donald Trump's library to be truly awful, depriving historians, journalists, and other researchers of the ability to go over documentation of his presidency in depth. Segregating the public archives from the private museum, as Obama has done, will allow Trump to curate and run his own museum without letting the more impartial archivists at NARA have any input into the presentation of his legacy.
Again: not great.
But, there is some good news. Obama and Nixon both had nonprofit foundations involved in their libraries, which allowed them to maybe-skirt some rules (at least for a while). Trump, however, has admitted in court to criminal nonprofit activity — which means it could be difficult for him to start another nonprofit foundation, at least in New York State, where he was born and raised and lived most of his life. Of course, he might be able to get around that as a resident of Florida. Ol' Donny always finds a way to wriggle himself out of trouble.
Presidential Libraries [National Archives and Records Administration]
What an accurate presidential library for Donald Trump would look like [Nate Berg / Fast Company]
In Defense of Presidential Libraries: Why the Failure to Build an Obama Library Is Bad for Democracy [Bob Clark / The Public Historian]
Obama's Presidential Library Could Set a Bad Precedent For Trump [Jack Crosbie / Splinter]
The Obama Presidential Library That Isn't [Jennifer Schuessler / New York Times]