President Donald J. Trump was inaugurated on Friday, January 20th, 2017 at noon. If you visited the White House website immediately following the inauguration of the 45th President, you discovered that the website for President Obama was replaced by a website highlighting the new policies of the 45th President.
What happened to the Obama Administration website? Is it gone? The answer is, “No.” The website has been preserved by the National Archives and Records Administration, a federal agency. The National Archives is the “Nation’s Records Keeper” and holds in its possession the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. In addition to safe-keeping America’s founding documents, the National Archives protects and preserves hundreds of thousands of government records including those created by the President of the United States. Presidential Records are stored in Presidential Libraries and Museums. You can read more about the 14 Presidential Libraries here.
In addition to archiving the electronic and paper records of each President, the National Archives freezes each administration’s website and social media accounts as a permanent record of the online presence of each sitting President. You may learn how to access the archived White House website and social media accounts of Obama administration officials here.
To date there are archived Presidential websites for three U.S. Presidents and they are great research tools. The archived websites are excellent resources for video and photographs, written materials such as speeches and press releases, and other public records from each administration. Since the archived White House websites are no longer updated, some links and other features may not work properly; however, they provide a unique snap shot in history. Links to the archived White House websites are provided below:
- Barack H. Obama:
- Frozen it time during the last days of the Obama adminstration. Useful resource for photographs, speeches, press releases, and other public domain records of the Obama Presidency from 2009-2017. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/
- The “We the People” site was a platform that allowed the public to create a petition online, share it, and collect signatures. https://petitions.obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/
- The Open White House website provided access to a collection of open datasets. https://open.obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/
- The “Let’s Move” program was developed by First Lady Michelle Obama to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation. https://letsmove.obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/
- George W. Bush: Snapshot from the last days of the Bush administration. Useful resource for photographs, speeches, press releases, and other public records of the Bush Presidency from 2001-2009. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/
- William J. Clinton:
- The Clinton Administration’s first White House website. Snapshot from November 1995. https://clinton1.nara.gov/
- “Gateway to Government.” Snapshot from August 1999. https://clinton2.nara.gov/
- Snapshot from July 2000. https://clinton3.nara.gov/
- This snapshot provides examples of Audio (July through December, 2000), Video (August through November, 2000) and other online documents (August) as provided for by various features on the White House website. https://clinton4.nara.gov/
- Final version of the website during the last days of the Clinton administration. Press briefings and radio addresses are included. https://clinton5.nara.gov/
- Searchable archive of White House documents, including Executive Orders, press briefings, radio addresses and other White House publications released between January 20, 1993 through mid-January, 2001. Originally published on the Clinton Administration’s White House websites. https://clinton6.nara.gov/
More information about Archived Presidential White House websites is available at https://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/archived-websites
- Briefly examine the home page of each archived website. How has technology changed from administration to administration? Has it improved? How do you know?
- A peaceful transfer of power every 4 to 8 years is the cornerstone of American democracy. Do you believe the archival of the former administration’s website represents this transition? Why or why not?
- Is it important to American democracy to keep important historical documents? Why or why not? What would happen if the Constitution was lost?