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Archives Spotlight: The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York, was the first Presidential library built in the United States. President Roosevelt led its conception and building, and he is the only President to have used his library while in office.

FDR decided to build the library in order to preserve the documents he had written and collected throughout his life. Before Roosevelt, Presidential papers were considered the property of the President. The documents were taken from the White House by the President when he left office and were later sold, scattered, or kept privately within families. Some Presidential records eventually landed in the Library of Congress, but not many, to the frustration of historians. The Roosevelt Library and all succeeding Presidential Libraries preserve Presidential papers for the public and educate the public about the past. The public is welcome to use the research rooms at all 13 Presidential Libraries.

But the library doesn’t only hold President Roosevelt’s official papers.

While the library undergoes a major renovation to bring its infrastructure up to the Archives’ preservation standards, the museum is presenting the largest photography exhibit ever assembled on the lives of the Roosevelts. “The Roosevelts: Public Figures, Private Lives” includes nearly 1,000 images of their childhoods, family life, and political careers, as well as candid film shot by the Roosevelt family and audio recordings of Eleanor speaking about her family life.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mansuel Crosby, and Oswald Mosley clown around in Florida, February 1926. This photo is included in the exhibit. ARC Identifier 195396.

Fans of Eleanor Roosevelt will be interested in the South Wing of the library, where her papers are stored, and where there is a gallery showcasing her life and considerable accomplishments.

Eleanor Roosevelt and Shirley Temple, July 1938. ARC Identifier 195615.

Newly married Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt ham it up for the camera—he knits while she drinks from his cocktail glass. Hyde Park, New York, 1906. ARC Identifier 197222.

For teachers, the library has many developed many online and on-site trainings and resources, such as curriculum guides for topics of the Roosevelt era, a Day by Day interactive timeline of Roosevelt’s Presidency, and professional development workshops. Learn more here.

President Roosevelt with his three secretaries, Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, Marvin McIntyre, and Grace Tully. November 4, 1938. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

The library also holds the Tully Archive, a collection of FDR-related papers and memorabilia kept by Grace Tully—the President’s last personal secretary—and in private hands until 2010. The collection includes many of Roosevelt’s, Tully’s, and secretary Marguerite “Missy” LeHand’s private and personal documents, including a letter from Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd to Grace Tully arranging for portraitist Elizabeth Shoumatoff to paint the President. While being painted, Roosevelt suffered a major cerebral hemorrhage and died a few hours later, making the painting forever “The Unfinished Portrait.” The letter suggests that Tully played a key role in facilitating Roosevelt’s meetings with Rutherfurd, with whom he had a brief affair and continued to see occasionally throughout his life. You can learn more about the collection in this video or on the library’s website.

An impressive number of the documents in the library are also online. See what you can find on the website, visit the library in Hyde Park, read the blog, like its Facebook page, and follow it on Twitter!

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