Guide to the Peter Wood Papers on the Nixon Library Controversy, 1981, 1985


Peter H. Wood is Professor Emeritus in the Dept. of History at Duke University. The collection consists of documentation related to the Nixon Library Controversy at Duke during 1981.

Collection Details

Record Group
Peter Wood papers on the Nixon Library Controversy
1981, 1985
Wood, Peter H., 1943-
0.5 Linear Feet, approx. 450 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Material in English

Collection Overview

This collection contains correspondence, flyers, clippings, and other documents regarding the Nixon Library Controversy at Duke during 1981. The documentation was created and/or collected by Dept. of History Professor, Peter H. Wood, and demonstrates the divisiveness of this controversy as well as the opinions of Duke faculty members regarding the Nixon library.

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Collection is open for research.

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Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Peter Wood Papers on the Nixon Library Controversy, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Nixon Library: General, 1981
Box 1
Letters from Outside Duke, 1981
Box 1
Hoover Library, etc., 1981
Box 1
Teach-In, 1981
Box 1
Craufurd Goodwin Letter (from the History Dept.), 1981
Box 1
Quotes from Historians, circa 1981
Box 1
Sydney Nathans on Presidential Libraries, circa 1981
Box 1
Briefing File, 1981
Box 1
Cady Letter, 1981
Box 1
Wood's Statement to the Academic Council, 1981
Box 1
Resolution on Location: Presented to the Academic Council by Wood, 1981
Box 1
Wood's Article for the OAH Newsletter, circa 1981
Box 1
Dirk Philipsen: "Power, Politics, and a Private Elite University: The Nixon Library Controversy at Duke," circa 1985
Box 1
ITT, undated
Box 1
Maps, undated
Box 1
Clippings, 1981
Box 1

Historical Note

In July 1981, Terry Sanford initiated negotiations with former U. S. President Richard Nixon (Duke Law '37) to locate the Nixon presidential library on the campus of Duke University, Nixon's alma mater. When this information was revealed to faculty members during the week of August 10, 1981, many opposed the proposition, citing Sanford's failure to consult the faculty prior to initiating negotiations.

Many who opposed the library had moral objections to memorializing a President whose behavior in office was reproachable, and they feared a negative effect on the university's reputation. Other concerns included the effects of increased tourist traffic on campus and the uncertain aesthetic nature of the proposed structure. However, supporters of the Nixon Library argued that the scholarly and academic benefits of locating the Nixon Presidential Materials collection on campus should and would outweigh other concerns. These supporters tended to denounce the actions of vocal dissenters as divisive and arrogant.

Meetings of the Academic Council and Board of Trustees during September and October 1981 were dominated by the Nixon Library debate, and a group of faculty formed the Committee Against the Nixon-Duke Library (CANDL) to organize the efforts of faculty, students, alumni, and others opposed to the proposed library. Although the Academic Council voted not to pursue further negotiations with former president Nixon in a 35-34 decision at a September 3, 1981 meeting, the Board of Trustees later voted 9-2 to proceed. By April 1982, negotiations had stalled. One year later, Nixon's representatives announced that a site at Chapman College in San Clemente, California, had been chosen for the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library.

These files were created by Peter H. Wood, while serving as Professor in the Dept. of History. He is now Professor Emeritus.

Related Material

  • Sydney Nathans Collection, 1975-1981 (Duke University Archives)
  • Committee Against the Nixon-Duke Library (CANDL) Records, 1981 (Duke University Archives)
  • Nixon Library Controversy Reference Collection, 1981-2001 (Duke University Archives)

Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.


The Peter Wood Papers on the Nixon Library Controversy were received by the University Archives as a transfer in 2012.

Processing Information

Processed by Kimberly Sims, July 2012

Encoded by Kimberly Sims, July 2012

Accession UA2012-0020 is described in this finding aid.