Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
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Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum
Created and maintained by the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, Austin, Texas.
Reviewed Nov. - Dec. 2001.

This site is part of the National Archives and Records Administration http://www.nara.gov/ and covers the life and career of Lyndon Baines Johnson, focusing on his presidency from 1963 to 1969. As currently constructed, the site serves best as an archive of primary sources, although it tries to do more by featuring electronic exhibits, teaching resources, and links to other sites.

The “Archives Collections” area contains information for those wishing to do research at the LBJ Library, including an online grant application and lists of the library’s holdings for Johnson’s Pre-Presidential, Presidential, and Post-Presidential papers, other personal and organizational records, oral histories, photographs, and phone conversations. The online photograph archive consists of three Web pages containing twenty-seven images available in both JPEG and TIFF formats. The oral histories available online are stored in Adobe Acrobat format, and the library provides a link where visitors can download the program for free. The staff has also prepared separate guidelines for research on foreign policy topics and plans to add guides for domestic issues and key individuals.

The other areas of the site are designed more for teaching and the general public. President Johnson’s telephone conversations on major topics including civil rights and the Vietnam War and scanned pages from the president’s daily diary are available online. For the phone conversations, the library’s site provides samples and a link to the full conversations located on the C-Span Web site http://www.c-span.org/lbj/search.asp?Cat=Series&Code=LJ. Although navigation between the two sites can be awkward, at the C-Span site one can search the conversations by category, keywords, or individual.

There are also two interesting but not exceptional exhibits, “From Gutenberg to Gone with the Wind,” which displays material from the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, and “America 1908 to 1973,” essentially a timeline that integrates major events in United States history with the lives of both Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson.

Besides the exhibits, there are two other major weaknesses to the site. First, in one of the few interpretive passages, the “Biographical Chronology” under the “Reference Desk” section either ignores or glosses over some of the more controversial elements to Johnson’s political career, including corruption during his 1948 Texas senate race, the shaky evidence supporting passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in 1964, and Johnson‘’s tense relationships with civil rights leaders and Robert Kennedy.

Second, the “LBJ for Kids” area is inadequate. It currently contains activities on civil rights, including sounds clips, photographs, two timelines, and an “Activity Pod” with two topics: “From Selma to Montgomery” and “Mississippi Deaths.” Other topics planned for the section are “Education,” “Environment,” "War on Poverty,“ and ”Foreign Affairs.“ Those expecting copious amounts of pedagogical techniques, lesson plans, and creative use of primary sources will be disappointed. Nowhere is it clear which age groups the staff defines as ”kids," which major objectives are to be achieved, or why the staff chose certain documents and topics.

In short, the site offers an impressive archive of documents, images, sound clips, and textual information related to Lyndon Johnson’s life and political career. While the site lacks critical assessment of major events, and the “LBJ for Kids” section needs improvement, it can be a useful supplement for high school and college teachers, and it should also be the first stop for those planning a research trip to the LBJ Library.

Gregory Wilson
University of Akron
Akron, Ohio