What Are You Working On, Alan Lowe?

Ever wonder what exciting new projects the many employees at NARA are working on? The “What are You Working On?” blog feature aims to introduce a variety of NARA employees and highlight some of the exciting projects we are working on around the agency. Check for this blog series on Wednesdays!

 For the next few weeks, we’ll be doing a series-within-a-series as we hear from staff at the George W. Bush Presidential Library.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to get a brand-new NARA location up and running, you’ll have your questions answered by those currently in the process.  We’ll start this week with the library’s director, Alan Lowe.

What is your name and title?

My name is Alan Lowe, and I am the director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Where is your job located?

Currently, we work in a temporary facility in Lewisville, Texas, which is just north of Dallas.  Late next year, we will begin moving staff members and holdings into our new facility on the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas.  The new facility will be dedicated in early 2013.

Alan Lowe at his desk

What is your job in a nutshell?

As director of the library, I am ultimately responsible for all of the work done here.  We have a large archival staff, and I keep very informed on their processing and reference activities.  Our museum staff is busy planning our future exhibits and taking care of our huge collection of artifacts, and our education specialist is already starting to conduct programs with local schools and SMU.  I help with all of those activities and also keep an eye on our administrative operations.  On top of that, I feel a big part of my job is creating partnerships and making the broader community aware of what NARA and the Bush Library are all about, so I am constantly talking to groups and making connections.  And for the past two years, I have taken a very active role in the design of our future facility and museum exhibits, working in close cooperation with our foundation partners.

What are you working on right now?  (Why is it cool/why does it matter?)

There is never a boring day here, and I always have a million things going on at one time!  Most recently, I have been working on a joint use agreement with our foundation, which helps govern how we’ll work together in the future.  I’ve been helping plan a conference we are holding next spring on the First Ladies, and I am planning a course that I will teach for SMU on the Presidency and the West.  I just returned from a museum design meeting in Washington, D.C. with our exhibit planners – we are now at the stage of picking artifacts, writing script, etc., which is very cool.  Over the past week or so I have spoken to 3 groups about the Bush Library.  And, very importantly, we are in the midst of beginning to plan for our move to our permanent facility – I have been through a few moves and know they are always challenging but exciting too.

How long have you been at NARA?  Have you worked at any other NARA location?

I started at NARA as an archivist at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in 1989.  I moved to the Office of Presidential Libraries in 1992 and worked there until 2003.  For part of that time, I also served as interim director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.  Then, in 2003, I left NARA to be the founding Executive Director of the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee.  I came back to NARA in 2009 to start serving as the director of the Bush Library.

What has changed since you started at NARA?

One of the biggest changes is the advent of electronic records.  At the Reagan Library, we simply didn’t have to worry about that issue at all.  Now, at the Bush Library, we have roughly 80 terabytes of information to process, including around 200 million emails.  So that is a big change.

Do you have a favorite day at NARA, or a favorite discovery or accomplishment?

I’ve had a lot of great days at NARA.  I really think my first day on the job as director of the Bush Library was one of the best.  Coming back to an agency I love in a dream job was very cool.  Helping get this library up and running over the past two years is a proud accomplishment.  I also was very happy to serve for just under a year as interim Director at the Roosevelt Library.  That place is so full of history.

What are your passions or interests outside of work?

Well, first of all, I love spending time with my 9-year old daughter, who keeps me very busy and is brilliant and beautiful!  I play drums as often as possible, and I love to read history and biographies.  I also very much like to write and try to set aside some time every week to do that.  In history I particularly like to study ancient Roman and English history.  I love University of Kentucky basketball, Texas Rangers baseball, and tennis.

What is the last book you read, or the last book you loved?

I usually keep 2 or 3 books going at one time – I am very bad about that.  I just finished Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris and The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan by James Mann.  I also recently finished Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides, a truly wonderful book about Kit Carson.

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