Written by Marci Reaven, Vice President for History Exhibitions
The New-York Historical Society was founded in 1804, which means the Museum has been around for every U.S. presidency since Thomas Jefferson’s. Walk through our galleries, visit the Library, or dig down deep into our collections. Everywhere you look you’ll find objects, images, and documents associated with American presidents, with the men and women who helped them perform their duties, and with the constitution they are charged to protect and defend.
The 2016 election generated intense interest across the country and around the world in the American political process and the role, powers, and responsibilities of the presidency. We share that interest.
The Office of the President today looks very different from the one that George Washington upheld. The experience of more than two centuries of federal government has substantially changed the modern presidency. Today, the president oversees an enormously powerful executive bureaucracy that, among other things, initiates and develops public policy, allocates the resources of the federal government, and administers and regulates all of the federal government programs. Every day, the president and government officials in the executive branch propose ideas and policies that directly affect all of our lives.
Given the critical importance and daunting complexity of the presidency, we’ve decided to see what New-York Historical’s displays, holdings, staff, and knowledgeable friends can teach us about the executive branch of government. What is it made of? What has it done and what does it do now? How far does it reach? Through exhibition displays, living history programs, quiz challenges, and more, including a series of blog postings, we’ve initiated The Presidency Project.
Over the coming weeks this blog will examine and explore the history of the Office of the President. We hope you’ll join us, and we invite you to send us topics to explore.