January 20, 2009
By JASON SICKLES
The Dallas Morning News
With a career helping presidents both Democrat and Republican, the new director of the George W. Bush library says he favors collaboration between the archives and public policy center at SMU.
"There can be great critical mass there," said Alan C. Lowe, 44, a veteran of the National Archives who played key roles in planning the libraries of the last two presidents.
His hiring – a mutual decision between the National Archives and Records Administration and the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation – was announced Monday.
"Alan is a talented and experienced professional and will be an outstanding director of the library," President George W. Bush said in a White House statement. "We look forward to working with him and the National Archives to build a world-class presidential library and museum that will be an important resource for scholars and the general public."
The appointment is among the most important yet in the early planning for the $300 million complex. The National Archives will operate the library and museum, and the Bush foundation will run a public policy center – all in the same building at Southern Methodist University.
Some faculty and Methodists church members have objected to the study center, calling it a propaganda tool for a president who led the nation into an unpopular war and a recession.
Lowe spent 14 years with the National Archives and the last six as founding director of the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee.
Lowe, who will starthis Dallas job in April, said he envisions a facility that combines civic education and engagement.
"Let us show you it in practice," he said. "It will prove itself over time as we do those things."
Sharon Fawcett, assistant archivist for presidential libraries at the National Archives, said appointing a permanent director years before the library opens is a first. The library is scheduled to open in 2013.
"He can help with the vision, to help integrate the National Archives' vision with the foundation's vision," she said.
Mark Langdale, president of the Bush foundation, said Lowe was selected from a dozen candidates after meeting with the first couple last week. "It's as if he has prepared his whole career for this," Langdale said.
In 1989, Lowe was a 25-year-old assistant archivist who helped assemble records to open Ronald Reagan's presidential library. He later transferred to the Archive's Office of Presidential Libraries, where he was a lead adviser on the George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton libraries.
Lowe said this Bush library will, literally, be his biggest challenge. Two cargo planes and 14 tractor-trailers full of records have been shipped to a Lewisville warehouse for storage until the library opens. More shipments are planned this week.
"It's a mammoth collection," Lowe said, especially the unprecedented amount of electronic records.
"One of my core beliefs is the records speak," he said. "The Bush library will allow people to come in and dig into the records of the past several years. Generations will decide. As they say, it was an administration of great consequence."
# # #