Donald Trump Wants a Presidential Library. What Would That Look Like?

"I want YOU to donate to my presidential library."
"I want YOU to donate to my presidential library." Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr
It has been a rough couple of months for Donald J. Trump, one of South Florida's newest full-time residents. Voters booted him out of the White House, Congress impeached him for a second time after he incited a violent siege of the U.S. Capitol, Twitter vaporized his virtual soapbox, and he has retreated to one of the swampiest swamps of them all — his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach County.

It seems he's jumped from one sinking ship to another, as his businesses are hemorrhaging revenue. But there's one new venture he seems to be optimistic about. Trump wants to raise $2 billion to construct a presidential library, possibly in his new home state. What would make the Narcissus of American politics happier than a memorial to himself and his perceived accomplishments?

Presidential libraries, which are constructed with private funding and maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, serve as repositories and museums that display government records and artifacts from a particular administration "without regard for political considerations or affiliations."

Telling an objective story about a former president who spent four years putting his party, his self-interest, and his golf courses before his country will be quite a task for National Archive curators.

What would a Donald J. Trump Presidential Library even look like? New Times has some ideas.

The amenities

A Trump endeavor isn't a Trump endeavor if it isn't a grand money-making scheme. Every presidential library charges an admission fee, but why stop there? The former president has asked his supporters to open their wallets for his "election defense" fund, his failed re-election campaign, and his political action committees. Trump is once again asking for your financial support so he can make his library/casino/hotel/golf course/tanning salon/toupee shoppe dream a reality.

It's gonna be yuge. It's gonna be classy. Like the piece of chocolate cake Trump ate while approving a missile strike on Syria, it's gonna be the most beautiful presidential library you've ever seen. And it's going to need amenities! (Trump is a hotel magnate, after all.) Here's a working list of provisions for the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library.
  • Casino. (Trump has debts to pay and he needs as many suckers on the slots as possible.)
  • Toupee shoppe. (Walk out looking like you, too, have spent $70,000 on your luscious strands!)
  • Golf course. (Maybe two.)
  • Ice Cream "Parler." (Vanilla ice cream only.)
  • Tanning salon. (Shades range from light apricot to burnt pumpkin. Disinfectant injections available for an upcharge.)
  • Gift shop. ("Sleepy Joe" eye masks, Stormy Daniels' memoir, Melania's "I really don't care do u?" coat, and toy hurricane nukes, etc.)

The photo collections

In 1841, William Henry Harrison was the first U.S. president to pose for a portrait on the day of his inauguration. Since then, photos of America's presidents have captured some of the most consequential moments in American history — Richard Nixon throwing the V sign after resigning from office, Secret Service members shielding Ronald Reagan after an assassination attempt, and George W. Bush receiving news of the World Trade Center attacks. Many photos show lighthearted moments, like Barack Obama turning to mush in the presence of babies.

Presidential-library photo collections provide a visual history of a commander-in-chief's tenure and accomplishments. Trump may not have represented America well on the world stage, denounced white supremacy, championed the environment, or taken the global COVID-19 pandemic seriously. He may very well go down in history as the worst U.S. president. But he sure can stage a photo op. Throughout his presidency, at the drop of a hat, the Donald would fan his feathers for the camera like a horny peacock engaged in a mating ritual.

Whoever is tasked with curating the photos for display at his presidential museum would be remiss to exclude these gems.

The exhibitions

Museum exhibitions generally cast presidents in a favorable light and show off the positives of their tenure. That's because private organizations fund the construction of the facilities, the collections, and, sometimes, staffing. That means visitors likely won't see exhibits about the Trump administration's inhumane family-separation policy, the women who accused him of sexual assault and harassment, his two impeachments, or his embrace of white supremacists.

But they should. We'll just leave some potential exhibit titles here:

The artifacts

The collection of artifacts for former president Barack Obama's library and museum, which hasn't yet been constructed, includes fine art, books, clothes, and gifts from foreign leaders. Trump, too, has received interesting gifts — a Louis Vuitton golf bag from French president Emmanuel Macron, a gold-plated camel figurine from Saudi King Salman, portraits of himself, a document on climate change from Pope Francis. (The gifts belong to the National Archives, but Trump can keep anything he wants to purchase at market value.)

But the real gems that have carved their place in the annals of Trump's infamy aren't nearly as opulent. The museum really ought to preserve the Bible Trump was photographed holding up during a photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., after police forcefully cleared out Black Lives Matter protesters from the area.
Then there are the handwritten notes Trump read from while talking to reporters about the November 2019 impeachment proceedings, which partly revolved around Trump's efforts to withhold $400 million in military aid for Ukraine in exchange for dirt on President Joe Biden. The notes and the former president's favorite Sharpie come as a package deal.
News outlets have reported that Trump never read his intelligence briefings and instead relied on visuals. The former president doesn't read anything, really. The library shelves will undoubtedly be stacked with multiple copies of the books he has "written" (note to gift shop!), scrapbooks full of photos of the people he pardoned, and albums of his many, many, many friends. No bookworm's collection would be complete without this must-read:

The video archives

The year is 2032. You're sitting in a plush-looking but smelly recliner inside one of the screening rooms at Donald John Trump's Presidential Library and Museum and Casino and Golf Course and Tanning Salon and Toupee Shoppe. You take a look around. The floor is carpeted in red. The walls are trimmed with gold. The yuge screen in front of you displays a slideshow of photos of the 45th U.S. president shaking the hands of world leaders, signing executive orders in black Sharpie, and pretending to look very busy taking calls in the Oval Office. You relax into your La-Z-Boy and make use of the armrests. You feel a wet spot beneath your right forearm. There is a strange-colored stain. You clutch your hands in your lap and fold into yourself. Instinctively, you look for hand-sanitizer dispensers. There are none.

You consider following the neon signs to the nearest restroom (or "shithole," as it is called here) to decontaminate yourself all the way up to your elbows. But before you can hoist yourself, the former president appears on the screen to welcome you with a prerecorded message. He's looking as orange as ever. The white ring around his eyes reminds you of an inside-out fried egg. Hairspray aerosol lingers in the air. He flashes a smile and a thumbs-up. You flash back to a televised Trump town hall in Miami, the one where a woman told him he was handsome and that he should smile more. You wouldn't call him handsome; his rage has aged him. But his teeth are all right.

"Wow, what a turnout," the former president says, although you are the only person in the screening room.

He runs through a history of the library and museum. He calls it "the biggest, most expensive, and most beautiful presidential museum the world has ever seen." Funding issues delayed its construction by several years, but a network of shell companies with ties to Russia finally hooked it up. Trump wanted to fence the building in panels from his failed U.S.-Mexico border wall, he explains. He called on his most devout followers to trek from the border to Florida with the panels on their backs. Only Sen. Marco Rubio completed the task.

Trump abruptly shifts to talk of "a stolen election," antifa, and how he "never stopped working for the American people." The library in which you sit, he declares, is "proof." He thanks you for visiting and suggests that after you exit through the gift shop you spend some time at the Great Wall of Donors, which flanks the museum's Great Hall. The museum would not have been built without them.

As the video fades to black, he reminds you to donate to his re-election campaign.
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Alexi C. Cardona is a former staff writer at Miami New Times.