Nixon Library Controversy Reference collection, 1981-2001

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Duke University. University Archives
This collection was compiled from a variety of sources by the University Archives for use in reference and research. Contains materials pertaining to the controversy surrounding Duke University President Terry Sanford's proposal to locate the presidential library of Richard Nixon (Duke Law '37) at Duke University. Types of materials include clippings, student papers, correspondence, minutes, reports, audiotapes, and a manual. Major subjects include Duke University, the Academic Council, the Board of Trustees, Richard M. Nixon, Terry Sanford, presidential libraries, and libraries on campus. Materials range in date from 1981-2001.
1 Linear Foot
1,000 Items
Material in English
Collection ID:
University Archives Record Group:
01 -- General Information and University History
01 -- General Information and University History > 11 -- Reference Collections


Scope and content:

This collection contains clippings, student papers, correspondence, minutes, reports, audiotapes, and a manual concerning the proposed Nixon presidential library at Duke University. Contains personal correspondence of Terry Sanford and various Academic Council and Board of Trustees members, as well as correspondence to and from the Council and Board as a whole. Also included are minutes and tape recordings from Academic Council meetings, reports made to the Political Science Department and the Environmental Concerns Committee, and a chronology of events from July through September 1981. Clippings from local and national publications are arranged chronologically. Two student papers are included (1982 and 1985). General presidential library information includes a briefing book, handbook, and period publications from other presidential libraries. Also contains an inventory and processing manual for the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Materials, provided by the National Archives and Records Service. Materials range in date from 1981-2001.

Biographical / historical:

In July 1981, Terry Sanford initiated negotiations with former U. S. President Richard Nixon (Duke Law '37) to locate the Nixon presidential library on the campus of Duke University, Nixon's alma mater. When this information was revealed to faculty members during the week of August 10, 1981, many opposed the proposition, citing Sanford's failure to consult the faculty prior to initiating negotiations.

Many who opposed the library had moral objections to memorializing a President whose behavior in office was reproachable, and they feared a negative effect on the university's reputation. Other concerns included the effects of increased tourist traffic on campus and the uncertain aesthetic nature of the proposed structure. However, supporters of the Nixon Library argued that the scholarly and academic benefits of locating the Nixon Presidential Materials collection on campus should and would outweigh other concerns. These supporters tended to denounce the actions of vocal dissenters as divisive and arrogant.

Meetings of the Academic Council and Board of Trustees during September and October 1981 were dominated by the Nixon Library debate, and a group of faculty formed the Committee Against the Nixon-Duke Library (CANDL) to organize the efforts of faculty, students, alumni, and others opposed to the proposed library. Although the Academic Council voted not to pursue further negotiations with former president Nixon in a 35-34 decision at a September 3, 1981 meeting, the Board of Trustees later voted 9-2 to proceed. By April 1982, negotiations had stalled. One year later, Nixon's representatives announced that a site at Chapman College in San Clemente, California, had been chosen for the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library.

Acquisition information:
The Nixon Library Controversy Reference Collection was compiled from various sources by University Archives staff for reference and research.
Processing information:

Processed by Archives Staff, May 2008

Encoded by Mary Samouelian, May 2008

Updated by Josh Larkin Rowley, January 2010

Accession is described in this finding aid.

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Nixon Library Controversy Reference Collection, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.