You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Staff Perspectives’ category.
Sometimes I think it’s a rare treat that I love my job as much as I do. It’s usually reinforced by friends or family talking about how boring their day was or how annoying a client is. Of course, yes, there are days I feel overwhelmed or my eyes are blurry from a bit too much time at the computer that day (I’m not at my computer all that often so it doesn’t take much). As the public programs specialist at the Roosevelt Library I get to work at the presidential library of the greatest president of the 20th century. And, even better, it’s my job to provide public programs that enable our visitors to learn more about both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and all of the wonderful things they have left to the American people.
One of the best aspects of my job is working with colleagues. None of these programs I organize I can truly call my own. And honestly, I LOVE that. They are a collaborative effort of the hard working Library administrators, staff and volunteers and I’m lucky enough to be the guy that pulls it all together. People make these programs happen.
But perhaps the most important people are the attendees; those who have taken time out of their day to visit us and learn about the great legacies of the Roosevelts. I think my favorite moment at the Library so far was during the question-and-answer session following a book talk about five years ago. The author took advantage of the situation and asked the first question of a captive Hyde Park audience of about 60 people. She wanted to know to what extent Hyde Park residents were aware of FDR’s disability back in the ‘30s and ‘40s. She unexpectedly got a firsthand account.
One of Hyde Park’s long time residents told a story from his childhood. He described a day in which FDR arrived late to church. Around the time he became aware that the President wasn’t there yet he felt a sensation similar to the hair standing up on one’s arm. He then heard softly, and then louder, the sound of metal braces coming closer and closer to the open doorway of St. James Church. He knew – without turning around – the President had arrived. FDR’s disability was so a part of who he was that it hardly registered as a disability at all to this young boy. And it made no difference to him. As I watched the man tell this story I could see that his description had given half the audience goose bumps. We all heard FDR approaching that door. For me, that program rose above the rest.
I celebrated 15 years as a federal employee this month. Those years included two college summers as an architect technician with the Historic American Building Survey, almost six years as a park ranger at Weir Farm National Historic Site in Connecticut, and going on nine years here at the Roosevelt Library managing both public affairs and public programs. While there are many events and programs here which leave me feeling good about my work – the annual Roosevelt Reading Festival, naturalization ceremonies, and just about anything with the March of Dimes – there will always be the unexpected few that rise above the rest. And that’s exactly why I do what I do.
FDR delivered my favorite of his speeches in 1932, a month before accepting his first of four presidential nominations. He spoke to the graduating class of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, setting forth an assertive challenge. The speech was a call to action:
“The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach.” Read the full address.
He spoke frankly about confronting the Great Depression – acknowledging the millions of Americans whom he would later describe as “ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished,” but also about a collective responsibility toward progress; our duty to work for real and permanent change. Of course, this vision became the bedrock of the New Deal, and this attitude set the tone for the entire Roosevelt administration.
In 1939 FDR’s progressive spirit also led him to create the nation’s first presidential library – an institution established not only to preserve the records of his administration, but to open those records to the American public, permanently. Though no legal mandate required his papers be opened for research or even saved, Roosevelt believed that the American people had a right to access the records of their government.
Yes, the passage I quoted above is historically significant, but it also resonates with me on another, more personal and professional level. I believe his call to action directly extends to our work at the Library and throughout the National Archives. FDR’s vision for open government was in many ways ahead of its time and our approach to modern archival practice also looks to the future: open the collections online. These days it is our responsibility to enter the digital realm in a way that is both useful and meaningful to the millions of people entitled to access public historical material. Millions can benefit from open and free access online, a prospect that would undoubtedly appeal to FDR.
It’s an honor to serve as a digital archivist at the nation’s first presidential library. I hope you’ll stay tuned through the coming year for new additions to our digital archives. On the Library’s website we plan to publish hundreds of thousands of pages of archival documents – resources previously available only in-person. The National Archives as a whole has made such inspiring leaps forward for open government (see Digitization at the National Archives, the 1940 Census Release, Transformation Blog). In my opinion there has never been a more exciting time to be an archivist. I am proud to work for a Library and an agency so committed to public responsibility and to mission-focused innovation.
Developing complex digital infrastructure to support an effective digitization program is no easy task, but we take very seriously the call to “above all, try something.” FDR would expect nothing less.
Forty years ago this month a 20 year old Marist College student walked into the Roosevelt Library to start a part time job as an archives aide. The pay was $2.61 an hour, the work was physical; moving boxes and pushing carts, and the place was inspirational. Fast forward 40 years and I make a lot more money, I only push a cart once in a while to help out and the place is still inspirational.
On my way to becoming the acting director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library I was a GS 2,3,4,5,6,7,9,11,12,13,14, and now a 15. I held a wide variety of jobs from sales store clerk to archivist to director of public programs and even left for four years to pursue motherhood. But the one constant in this wonderful career is that I am inspired every day by the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the dedication, knowledge and enthusiasm of the people I am privileged to work with. We all take great pride in being civil service professionals focused on the mission of the National Archives. We safeguard and preserve the records of our government, and ensure that people can discover, use and learn from this documentary heritage. Our job is to make sure our visitors and researchers have access to the Library’s holdings and that we promote research and education on the lives and times of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and their continuing impact on contemporary life.
We have much to look forward to. On June 30, 2013 we will open a brand new permanent museum exhibit and rededicate the Roosevelt Library to the purpose FDR talked about in his dedication speech on June 30, 1941. FDR said “a nation must believe in the capacity of its own people to learn from the past that they gain in judgment in creating their own future.” We believe that is the message we must bring to a new generation of learners and we plan to do just that with an amazing new exhibit, innovative educational programming and informative and interesting public programming. I hope you will join us on our new adventure!
There is something about working at the FDR Library that is addictive. There is a reason why so many of its staff members are former interns who just could not leave. I am no exception. The objects, the projects, the history, and the camaraderie of the staff keep you coming back for more.
After several years of working in museums and archaeology in the New England area, I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree (ALM) in Museums Studies. As part of the requirements for the program, I worked in the Museum Department at the FDR Library as an intern during the summer of 2005.
That summer, we began the process of inventorying the entire museum collection of over 34,000 objects. This meant photographing, measuring, and writing descriptions and condition reports for each object. We only completed a small portion of the project that summer, so I stayed on as a volunteer to continue the endeavor. I went on to become a part-time contracted Museum Technician and in March 2010 I was hired as a full-time employee.
Though the 100% inventory project was completed in the fall of 2008, a re-inventory of the collection began soon after and continues as an ongoing project. On any given day I could be answering research requests, fixing a problem with the exhibits, writing entries for the “From the Museum” section of the blog, helping develop the interactives for the new permanent exhibit, preparing museum objects to be sent out for conservation work, processing department purchase orders, planning the final move of the collection into new compact storage, or developing a descriptive audio tour for the future exhibits. With such a broad scope of duties, I enjoy being able put my hands on several different projects at once.
I had spent much of my collegiate studies learning about earlier periods of American culture, so having access to the tangible records of the last century has given me an invaluable history lesson. It is truly motivating being able to handle so many items related to the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the world they influenced. There is a difference between reading about FDR’s efforts to suppress from the public the totality of his disability and feeling the actual ten pound weight of his steel leg braces. This significantly put his hardships into perspective. I gained an appreciation for each artifact realizing sometimes even the smallest trinket in the collection had something to do with shaping Roosevelt’s personality and therefore his principles as an individual and as a president.
Why should anyone care who works at the Roosevelt Library, you might ask? Well, it’s because we all view ourselves as just the most recent caretakers of the institution that FDR created and established. It was FDR’s dream that the Roosevelt Library would house the papers, records, and memorabilia of his life and presidency so that Americans of later generations could gain in judgment for the future. The Roosevelt Library itself is part of FDR’s legacy, and we all take our responsibilities very seriously. So I think it’s important for the people who pay our salaries—you the taxpayers—to know who we are and what we do here.
I received my undergraduate and Master’s degrees in history at Texas Tech University. As a starving, penny-less student, I began working in Tech’s special collections library, the Southwest Collection. I’ll never forget sitting at the partner desk in the basement at the Southwest Collection going through my first box of completely unorganized archival materials that had been rescued from a woman’s attic in Lubbock. I fell in love with archival work.
But then I took an interesting turn. I went to law school and practiced law for seven years. While the law fascinated me, private practice did not. So with the turn of the millennium in January 2001, I asked myself “when were you happiest?” The answer: when I was an archivist. Soon, an archivist position opened up at the Roosevelt Library, and I moved to Hyde Park. It was one of the best decisions of my life. I was named Supervisory Archivist in February 2005.
Today, I oversee the care of the Roosevelt Library’s 17 million pages of manuscript materials, including the papers of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt; printed materials, including FDR’s personal book collection of 22,000 volumes; and the audio-visual and photographic collections totaling some 150,000 items. I also manage our research operations, which hosts nearly 1,500 on-site researchers a year and responds to over 3,500 research requests that come in annually from all over the world. All this is done with one of the smallest (six people)—yet mightiest—archives staffs in the presidential libraries system.
The accomplishment of which I am most proud is that at the beginning of the renovation we managed to completely vacate the Library without ever closing our doors to research, even for one day. The experience proved that archival theories and practices work on any scale—whether organizing that box on the desk at the Southwest Collection in 1986, or moving all of the collections and research operations out of the Roosevelt Library in 2010.
I will always be grateful for the professional and personal satisfaction that the Roosevelt Library gives me. I work with some of the best and most conscientious public servants in government today. And every day, I get to come to work and be inspired by two of the greatest figures of the Twentieth Century, if not all time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Michelle M. Frauenberger
Twenty years ago I began an extraordinary journey with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Fresh out of college and looking to gain experience working in a museum, I applied to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. As luck would have it, the Library was in the process of expanding its public programs, and I was hired to assist the Pubic Affairs Specialist.
Several years into my time at the Library, I was offered the opportunity to work in the Museum Department – an offer I leapt at – and thus began my on-the-job education in the world of museum work.
In my transition from public affairs assistant to Museum Collections Manager, I have had the chance to examine Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt through a variety of resources: documents, photos, films, books, etc. Add to these sources the objects in the Museum collection, and the Roosevelts truly become dimensional figures.
Like the museum collections in all the Presidential Libraries, our collection of over 34,000 objects is wonderfully varied. It ranges from personal items collected and used by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt to objects associated with their public lives and the eras in which they lived – and everything in-between.
As the Museum Collections Manager I have the day-to-day responsibility of managing this rich collection of artifacts. This entails the accessioning, cataloging, and tracking of the objects, insuring their safe storage, conducting preservation work on items, and arranging for outside conservation work when necessary. All this is made especially challenging as the Library has been undergoing a multi-year major renovation project. My duties also extend to researching objects, coordinating the loan of objects to institutions around the world, working with the Director and Supervisory Museum Curator on the acquisition of new objects, assisting with exhibit development, and – perhaps one of the most rewarding tasks – answering research queries. All facilitated by the camaraderie, cohesion, and support of a fantastic Library and Museum staff.
As the FDR Library and Museum moves into the final year of its renovation, I am looking forward to the beginning of an exciting new era for the Library (I may even get a little giddy over the new storage and processing facilities we will be gaining for the Museum collection!). An era in which we will bring increased public awareness of our Museum collection through dynamic new exhibits, web-based programs, and the continuation of loans to outside institutions.
I joined the staff of the Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum as the Education Specialist in April 2001. At the time I was still under contract as an Instructor of Government and American History with Dutchess Community College. As soon as the semester ended in the early part of May, I began my full-time Education Specialist responsibilities and was shocked to find myself starting my new position just at the very peak of the school fieldtrip season!
With the help of two seasoned volunteers, Joe Gleeson and Bob Richardson, and with the support and guidance of Lynn Bassanese, who had been running the education department until I was fully on board, I assumed the burden of teaching the students of today about the world of the Roosevelts’ in the 1930s and 40s.
My biggest concern was, how was I going to make a president who lived in a time before television, computers, and the widespread use of air conditioning, pertinent to the net-connected (addicted?) young learners of the 21 first century? Sadly, it was not long before events would answer the question for me.
The surprise attacks on New York and Washington on September 11th 2001 stood in direct parallel to the surprise attack on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. Concerns over WMD’s -weapons of mass destruction- had direct tiebacks to the Manhattan Project and the development of the Atomic Bomb. In November 2008, the United States broke a significant racial barrier and elected our nations’ first African American President, this just sixty-seven years after the racially tainted internment of Japanese Americans. As economic conditions went from bad to worse I was probably one of the only people in America who welcomed the “Great Recession” for its wealth of teachable moments which make the teaching of the Great Depression so much easier.
To my astonishment, my biggest concern turned out to be my biggest lesson, and it’s the lesson that my staff and I try to instill in the more than 15,000 students who visit our site each year: that so many of the issues and concerns faced in the Roosevelt era are still with us today. And that as we press to move forward, we must pause to look back at the lives and legacies of an extraordinary President and First Lady, who left us with so many rich and valuable lessons from which we all can learn.
I can remember it like it was yesterday. Flop! The atlas-sized exam hit the rickety student desk in front of me. I was a deer in headlights. A year’s worth of notes had been erased completely from my memory. How could this happen? American history had been my best subject all year and I could not remember a thing. What was I going to do? If I failed this test I could be condemned to another year of junior high school, and lose my chance of trying out for the FDR High School baseball team. I had to pass this test. I had to pass!
Then, suddenly, I remembered a Saturday afternoon when my family and I went to the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. My memories of that visit were as clear as day. I could picture every exhibit about the Roosevelts, the President’s car, and FDR’s Private Study, which he used to deliver some of his famous “fireside chats.”
I flipped through the essay questions, and quickly spotted one that I could answer. “What was President Roosevelt’s ‘Day of Infamy’ speech about?” Yes! I knew this one! My number 2 pencil tried to keep up with the memories that raced through my head of my day at the museum. Surely, I was on my way to an “A.” Then, all of a sudden, my writing hand came to a screeching stop. In an awkward pause I asked myself, “Was Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 or 1942?” Oh, no…
Today, I am proud to say that I passed my eighth grade American history exam, and now work in my home town of Hyde Park, New York as the Special Events Coordinator for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. I have worked at the Presidential Library for almost 6 years coordinating conferences, education programs, and group tours. I also operate audiovisual equipment for public functions at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center, and Pare Lorentz Film Center.
There are still times when I think back to that test and wonder what might have happened if I didn’t pass. Let’s just say that I’m glad that I remembered the year 1941.
I am one of the most recent additions to the staff of the FDR Library, having started work as the assistant to Director Lynn Bassanese in May, 2011. After graduating with a B.A. degree in English Lit from Marist College in 1998, I enlisted in the U.S. Army to become a Linguist (98G) and went through Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC. Since I’d studied Russian for eight years, I was surprised to find I was to learn Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA.
After over a year of intensive study, I graduated from the language portion of training (الحمد لله) but was held back from completing the second half of my AIT while Army physicians tried to diagnose and treat the anemia which resulted from what would years later be discovered to be Celiac Disease. In the end, I was given an honorable medical discharge from the Army.
I moved back to NY and was hired as a civilian Army employee in the Protocol Office at the United States Military Academy. In working with the Protocol team to plan and execute meetings of USMA staff with some of the most influential people in the world (including foreign heads of state, Cabinet members and Senators) I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse into how world events transpire and to become curious about how the United States has historically fit into this puzzle.
In 2006, I moved to mid-coast Maine to marry, buy a home and settle into a small, rural town that would be a good environment in which to raise a child. I worked with veterans at the oldest veterans’ facility in the country, the Togus VA. Due to a family situation, it became necessary to move back to NY in 2011 and I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the legacy of one of this country’s most admirable leaders.
I’m so happy to be working here; I feel connections to the House and Library going back quite a while. I remember as a little girl standing out in the cold celebrating FDR’s birthday along with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and attending ceremonies in the Rose Garden on Memorial Day, once meeting Hamilton Fish, Jr. FDR’s sons were sometimes present. When I was a teenager, I babysat one of FDR’s great-granddaughters.
I look forward to working with one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic teams I’ve ever known to facilitate the renovation and continue FDR’s legacy.