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Archiving a Presidency

Terp Part of Team Moving Obama’s White House Artifacts

By Kimberly Marselas and Sala Levin ’10

While the country spent a year or two debating who should move into the White House next week, Anna Yallouris ’08, M.L.S. ’11 (above left) has invested five years preparing to move current occupant Barack Obama—and a massive haul of paper records, state gifts and artifacts—out.

Yallouris, who works in the Presidential Materials Division at the National Archives and Records Administration, focuses on identifying, preparing and transporting physical materials out of the White House in advance of Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

“The archivists at the library will be working with the records themselves—processing them, providing access to the public and researchers,” Yallouris says. “I’m more the logistical, behind-the-scenes part.”

Yallouris meets with partners ranging from the White House Office of Records Management to the Department of Defense, which provides box trucks to move materials by the pallet-load, the first step in creating a presidential library to serve as a historical resource on Obama’s eight years in office.

Her job isn’t like most others in the archive field. When Yallouris first envisioned her career, she thought she’d spend her days working with records and researchers. Instead, she’s collaborating with record creators to ensure the records are preserved for research. Sometimes she even finds herself chauffeuring important records around town behind the wheel of a van. “It’s never boring,” she says.

For an idea of just how massive the job is, consider the holdings of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, the newest of 13 administered by the Archives. Materials include more than 70 million pages of text, 1,200 cubic feet of audiovisual materials and nearly 4 million photographs. It also has the largest set of electronic holdings, with about 80 terabytes representing some 200 million emails. Gifts—such as the gold-plated silver stirrups with inlaid rubies and emeralds given to President Bush by King Mohammed VI of Morocco—also have a place in presidential libraries.

The Obama Presidential Center is scheduled to open in Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago by 2021. For now, though, Yallouris and her colleagues are funneling materials from Washington, D.C., to Hoffman Estates, Ill., where a vacant furniture store has been converted into a 74,000 square-foot secure holding facility.

Until the documents officially become the property of the Archives on Inauguration Day, staff members aren’t allowed a peek at the many boxes containing the inner workings of Obama’s presidency.

“I sometimes struggle with explaining my job to people,” she says. “But it is an exciting time and you don’t really get this opportunity often.”

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