ASU home to John McCain's archives

Papers, records and memorabilia provide a glimpse into 35-year political career

ASU Archivist Renee James


In 2012, Sen. John McCain donated his papers to Arizona State University. The archive, known simply as the McCain Collection, is expected to grow dramatically over the next few months.

More than 800 boxes of his materials — records, photographs, correspondence — await shipment from his offices in Maryland and Washington, D.C., to ASU Library, where they will be accessible to scholars, historians and the public for generations to come. 

READ: McCain’s legacy at ASU one of philanthropy and service

Beginning with his election to the U.S. House of Representatives and first term in 1983, these historic materials offer a glimpse into the senator’s 35-year career in American politics, including his 2008 presidential campaign. 

To better understand the scope of the archival collection, ASU Now spoke with ASU archivist Renee James, the curator of the Greater Arizona Collection, within ASU Library’s Distinctive Collections.

Question: What can one expect to find in this collection?

Answer: The collection is comprised of materials documenting McCain’s service in the House of Representatives in addition to his campaigns for the House, Senate and the 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns. One can expect to find correspondence, handwritten notes, talking points on policy issues, photographs, polling data, staff files, news clippings, press files, campaign memorabilia and other related materials. 

Currently, we have about 270 boxes, or over 200 linear feet, of archival materials from Sen. McCain, and we expect the collection to grow substantially. Over 800 boxes of archival materials, as well as digital files from his Washington, D.C., office, await shipment to ASU Library.

Q: What are some of the more interesting items in the collection?

A: Some of the memorabilia items, such as hats, buttons, T-shirts, posters and banners, will really take you back to the cultural moment of the mid- to late '80s and early 2000s. The notes produced by McCain’s staff regarding debate preparations offer insight into what their concerns were at the time, and illustrates their campaign strategy on a number of different issues.

Q: Who can access the collection?

A: Anyone with an interest in John McCain can access the collection by submitting a request via the library website’s Ask an Archivist. Finding aids are also available on Arizona Archives Online. While this collection is inventoried and accessible, it does require curatorial review and permission to access.

Top photo: ASU archivist Renee James looks through some of the materials making up the McCain Collections housed at ASU Library. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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