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Obama library deemed affordable

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A University of Hawaii professor who dreams of an Obama presidential library in Hawaii believes the costs to build and operate it will be moderate because most of the construction money will come from the National Archives and Records Administration and the president’s private foundation.

"The president can raise money from the international community a lot better than we can," said Robert Perkinson, a UH associate professor of American studies. "He has a much better Rolodex than any of us."

The center would then be managed in perpetuity by the federal government, usually in partnership with a research university, Perkinson said.

The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas will cost more than $250 million, but Southern Methodist University provides only the land, Perkinson said.

The Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., houses the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, the local headquarters of the Clinton Foundation, private living quarters for the former first family, a museum that includes replicas of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room and an archive that holds 80 million pages of documents, 23 million electronic files, 2 million photographs and 90,000 artifacts, Perkinson said.

While it cost $165 million to build, the center generated an estimated $2.1 billion in job creation and urban development, Perkinson said.

The Clinton center still draws 300,000 visitors annually, he said. The most visited presidential library, according to the National Archives, is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., with more than 400,000 visitors last year.

If Obama’s library is built in Honolulu, Perkinson dreams of an iconic complex that would brand Honolulu like Sydney’s Opera House; the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain; or the Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The complex would be so beautiful and technologically advanced, Perkinson hopes, that "it will become the crown jewel of the presidential library system."


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