The Presidential Timeline Project

In May 2005, The Learning Technology Center received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and began working on a “We the People” project to promote knowledge and understanding of American history and culture. The LTC worked with the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and the 10 other presidential libraries and document projects, the University of Texas at Austin Libraries UTOPIA Project, faculty in the Colleges of Education and Liberal Arts, and the Austin Independent School District (AISD) on the development of a Web-based resource to give the public access to the libraries’ rich archives of historical artifacts. The two-year $233,000 project also included funding from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation and the UTOPIA Project.

The Presidential Timeline Web site, which debuted on Presidents’ Day 2007, features an interactive timeline of the 20th century based on the administrations of American presidents. The timeline contains digitized artifacts and primary historical resources, such as audio and video clips, photographs, and documents from the collections of the Presidential Libraries to illustrate or provide in-depth information on events. For example, information on the Gulf of Tonkin crisis during the Johnson administration includes President Johnson’s daily diary and audio files of conversations he had leading up to his address to the nation about the matter. Through the Presidential Timeline, students and the general public are able to examine original source materials that were available in the past only to serious scholars, providing them insight into the complexity and confusion that often surrounds presidential decision-making.

Dr. Paul E. Resta, director of the LTC and principal investigator for the project says, “In working with the Presidential Libraries on this important project we combined vast historical resources with technology in ways to help make history come alive for students across the nation.” His team, led by Ken Tothero, Coordinator of the LTC’s External and Special Projects, manages the project and works closely with the project partners on the Web site design and programming.

Dr. Betty Sue Flowers, Former Director of the LBJ Library, assisted the Learning Technology Center by coordinating the work of the libraries. Says Dr. Flowers, “The Presidential Libraries are enthusiastic in their support of the Presidential Timeline and confident that the materials they can contribute from their archival resources will be of enormous benefit to students of history and the general public for years to come. The NEH has provided the foundation for an exciting project that will continue to grow and develop.”

Another major aspect of the project is the curricular material that allows teachers to effectively integrate the resources of the Presidential Timeline into their instruction. All the project participants contributed to the design of these materials. In particular, the education specialists at each presidential library were able to share their knowledge and resources to create “exhibits” that explore events and issues, such as Human Rights, in detail. All of these instructional resources take advantage of the Presidential Timeline’s source materials to strengthen students’ skills in research, analysis, problem solving, and teamwork.

The Presidential Timeline received an additional $557,311 in October 2008 from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation through special Congressional funding. The new funding provided for many more of the presidential libraries’ primary sources to be digitized and added to the Timeline. Many new exhibits were also added. The project team also began providing summer institutes, held at various presidential libraries, for social studies teachers on using primary sources in their teaching. A series of Webinars on related topics was also begun.

In 2012, the project received $375,000 from the Office of Presidential Libraries to continue its activities. The funding will allow many improvements, including more powerful search capabilities, interaction through mobile devices, and a back end portal for streamlined delivery of new resources from the libraries.

For more information about the Presidential Timeline, contact Ken Tothero.

Last updated on May 21, 2013