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April 30, 2012

Today is a day of mixed emotions.  We are closing the permanent exhibits at the Roosevelt Library to turn the spaces over to our general contractor for a much needed renovation.  And immediately following that work an exhibit fabricator will start to install a brand new permanent exhibit.

Some of our current museum exhibits have been in place since 1972.  An alarmingly long time for any museum exhibit so the prospect of change is exciting.  But for many, those exhibits are like old friends.  In my very first job at the Library in 1972 I was a part time archives aide and pressed into service assisting the museum staff as they worked to complete the First Fifty Years Gallery.  The exhibit was done completely in house and my job was to paint the paper we were using for exhibit labels.  After the tan color paint dried I would roll the paper into a typewriter that had a special ball with a large size font.  Then I very carefully typed the label copy on the paper and cut it to fit into its wooden frame.  It was a long process and one mistake sent you all the way back to painting more paper.  You can bet I will be grabbing one of those original labels for my memory box before the demo crew comes through.

In the last 40 years I have taken so many people through our exhibit spaces; heads of state, celebrities, journalists and countless tourists who just looked a little lost as I was passing through the galleries.  I was often late for meetings because I had stopped to point out something interesting in the exhibit to one of our visitors and a brief stop turned into a mini tour.  What can I say—I love the place and I love showing it off!

So we bid a fond farewell to an amazing chapter in the Roosevelt Library’s history.  And in the same breath we proclaim the coming of a new and powerful permanent exhibit opening in late summer 2013. New state-of-the-art installations on the life and times of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt will tell the story of the Roosevelt presidency from the depths of the Great Depression and continuing through the New Deal years and the Second World War, while also covering their early years and FDR’s heroic struggle to regain his strength and political career after polio. Concluding galleries will consider the Roosevelt legacy today and guide visitors through Mrs. Roosevelt’s work in the years following the President’s death. The exhibit features special interactives and audio-visual theaters designed to bring the new deal to a new generation.

And in the meantime from spring 2012 to late summer 2013—while our permanent exhibit galleries are closed for the final stage of the Library’s renovation—the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is presenting the largest photography exhibition ever assembled on the lives and public careers of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. “The Roosevelts: Public Figures, Private Lives,” is a new and very different kind of exhibit that takes visitors on an immersive photographic and film journey through the lives and times of the Roosevelts. The exhibition features nearly one thousand images that vividly depict both their public and private lives.

These photographs include famous and familiar images, many reproduced in dramatically large formats. But the exhibit also presents visitors with new visual perspectives on the Roosevelts through large numbers of unique and rarely-seen personal photographs from the unparalleled photographic collections at the Roosevelt Library. Shot by family members, friends, government officials, and other insiders, these images offer fascinating views into the private lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and their family and political associates. The highlight of the exhibit is a multimedia presentation featuring original audio recordings of Eleanor Roosevelt speaking about her family life.

One of our primary goals throughout the Library renovation has been to keep the Museum open to the public. This new exhibit was designed by our museum staff to serve not just as an interim exhibition but also a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our visitors. Never before have this many photographs of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt been assembled in one place. If a picture is worth a thousand words just imagine the story 1,000 photos can tell.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the enormous support of the Roosevelt Institute, the Library’s private partner.  They are providing all of the financial support for the design and installation of the new permanent exhibit and our temporary exhibit. We owe so much to their Board of Directors led by Anna Eleanor Roosevelt and their amazingly supportive staff led by President and CEO Felicia Wong.

The Roosevelt Library owes its biggest gratitude to Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel and his outstanding leadership in the revitalization of the Roosevelt Library.  Many years ago he accepted the enormous challenge of raising millions of dollars in support of building a new Visitor Center and new permanent exhibits.  He, along with Anne Roosevelt and the Roosevelt Institute Board, was also instrumental in securing congressional funding for the building renovation.  I know of no individual who has worked so tirelessly in support of the Roosevelt Library and its mission.  We are forever indebted to Bill for his generosity and support.

Lynn Bassanese
Acting Director

The Library hosted a lively discussion on civil rights on April 11. Supervisory Archivist Bob Clark welcomed the audience and Michael McCoy, assistant professor of history at SUNY Orange led an hour-long panel discussion on civility and democracy in America as it relates to civil rights issues. The program was part of the “Fireplace Lounge Chats” discussion series on civility and democracy in America — in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home. With support from a New York Council for the Humanities grant, a group of regional political scientists, educators, historians and local politicians are presenting eight “Fireplace Lounge Chats” throughout the Hudson Valley.

The second of two programs to be held at the Roosevelt Library in the month of April will occur on April 25 focusing on FDR’s presidency. These expert-led discussions feature representatives from local colleges, area high schools, county legislatures, the Roosevelt Library and SUNY Orange. The issue examined across all eight programs is the question of civility in American political discourse and how it relates to the topic of the evening.

Public Programs and Education staff at the Roosevelt Library are working hard to prepare for this year’s Memorial Day Weekend activities. Events will kick-off with the annual USO Show on Friday, May 25, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. This program features WWII-era entertainment taking visitors back to the Roosevelt days as attendees enjoy an evening of comedy and entertainment, historic film footage, and music from the 1940s. On Saturday, May 26, 2012 and Sunday, May 27, 2012 the Roosevelt Library will present a weekend of World War II displays inside the Henry A. Wallace Center.

Re-enactors in battle dress will be on hand to share their love of history with World War II enthusiasts, families, teachers, and students. Collections of military uniforms, prop weapons, and insignia will be on display. Period military vehicles will also be on display in the courtyard of the Wallace Center and musicians will perform live music from the 1940s both Saturday and Sunday on the stage in the Multipurpose Room.

On Memorial Day, May 28, 2012, the National Park Service will host a Graveside Memorial Service at 3:00 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the Home of FDR National Historic Site. Guests of honor will include 25 sailors from the Guided Missile Destroyer USS ROOSEVELT (DDG 80), named in honor of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and adopted by Dutchess County and Hyde Park by resolution in 2009. All Memorial Day Weekend events are free, pubic events. Please come and enjoy them!

Existing Permanent Exhibits to Close April 30, 2012


This is an exciting time at the Roosevelt Presidential Library. We are undergoing a major renovation scheduled to be completed in late summer 2013. As part of the last phase of renovation, the existing permanent exhibits will close on April, 30, 2012. This is the first renovation of the Roosevelt Library building since it opened to the public in 1941. While it will not change the historic exterior of the building it will bring its infrastructure up to National Archives standards for the preservation of historic collections. The renovation will include an exciting new permanent museum exhibit that will bring a new deal to a new generation.

During the interim period we hope you enjoy our new exhibit, “The Roosevelts: Public Figures, Private Lives” — the largest photography exhibition ever assembled on the lives and public careers of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. For more information about the new exhibit visit the exhibit information page on our website or read the press release.

Sarah Malcolm

My name is Sarah and I am the Archives Specialist here at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library. My story at the Library begins back in 2007 when I was a summer intern in the archives. I didn’t know much about what an archive was nor had any clue about what an archivist did, but I loved history and wanted to try something a little bit different. That summer I fell in love with archives and with the Roosevelts. I went to graduate school and received my Masters in Library and Information Science in 2009 and was hired by the Library in 2010.

You may be wondering what exactly an archives specialist does, and the answer to that is many different things. As a member of the archival staff I provide reference service in our research room and answer questions we receive through e-mail. I copy documents that researchers request and retrieve materials from our storage rooms when requested. I am also able to provide outreach through digitizing documents and our social media efforts.

One of the greatest things I find about working in archive is being able to work with history every day. Every document and photograph in our collection has its own story to tell, something that makes it unique. Telling those stories and sharing our collections with people is important to me and social media provides an outlet for doing just that.

When I was in school, I never thought I would be spending time at work blogging, or on Facebook and Twitter. However, social media is an important part of what I do here at the Library. As part of our social media team I am responsible for finding content to write about and moderating our different sites. Working on social media projects has given me a different perspective on our collections and I’ve been able to learn so many great things. Thanks to our blog I’ve learned what FDR would have done after the presidency, that he flew a blimp in 1918 and that fabric swatches for gowns can be found in Eleanor Roosevelt’s papers.

I do want to say thank you to you our readers. Thank you for continuing to follow all of our social media sites and for the feedback that you give us. Being able to help bring the treasures of the Roosevelt Library to all of you through social media is a great joy for me. I also want to say thank you to all of my colleagues who play a part in our social media efforts. Without the content you all provide, we never would have gotten as far as we have.

So thank you all and stay tuned for more stories of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The RMS Titanic at 100

One hundred years ago, the British passenger liner RMS Titanic sank on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic.Considered a marvel of sumptuous luxury and Progressive Era industrial engineering, the ship charged confidently through icy waters at high speeds, struck an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland, then went down in under three hours.

More than 1,500 people died, including very wealthy Americans and many poorer European emigrants. 710 survivors of the wreck were rescued from life boats and carried to New York by the British ship, RMS Carpathia. The Roosevelt and Delano families knew several of the first class passengers who died.

In honor of the Titanic‘s 100th anniversary, we look back at how FDR’s family reacted to the infamous disaster.

Photographs of the Edwardian-era Roosevelts

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Daybook and Personal Letters

Sara Delano Roosevelt's Daybook

Sara Delano Roosevelt’s 1912 Daybook (left): “Heard of the Titanic’s collision with an iceberg”

FDR to Sara Delano Roosevelt, April 17th, 1912: “We know practically no details, only scraps here and there.”

Sara Delano Roosevelt to FDR, April 24th, 1912:  “…oh! the tragedies in steerage as well.”

Eleanor Roosevelt to FDR, April 17-24, 1912: “I don’t think I will ever let you go away alone again.”

FDR’s Last Official Act, April 12, 1945

Each year around the anniversary of FDR’s death on April 12, 1945, we are often asked if we know the last official action taken by Roosevelt as president. Thanks to presidential secretary William D. Hassett, who often traveled with FDR and was in Warm Springs on that fateful trip, we know the answer to this question.

Because of President Roosevelt’s love of stamps and stamp collecting, he was always very involved in the design and issuance of new and commemorative postage stamps. With the first United Nations Conference scheduled to begin on April 25 in San Francisco, Postmaster General Frank Walker sent a memo to FDR on April 9th asking him to select his preferred design for the UN Conference commemorative stamp. A typed notation made at the top of this memo shows that on April 11, the day before the President died, he selected Design No. 1 to be issued as a five cent stamp and printed in blue.

But this was not the last official act. As William Hassett wrote in a memorandum to Postmaster General Walker on April 16th, FDR’s last official directive–given just a half hour before he was stricken–was to agree to the Postmaster’s request that the President purchase the first issue of the UN Conference commemorative. FDR also instructed that gift albums of the new stamps should be presented to all of the Conference delegates by the Secretary of State.

As we look back on the life of Franklin Roosevelt, it is fitting that his last official act involved the intertwining of two things he loved so deeply: stamp collecting and the United Nations.

Block of U.S. United Nations stamps, part of the United Nations Conference Issue. Four "Toward United Nations, April 25, 1945" ultramarine 5¢ stamps (Scott 928), number printed at the left "23267," first day of issue April 25, 1945.

You have to break a few bricks to renovate a Presidential Library


With FDR looking on we continue to make progress in Phase 2 of our Library renovation. Demolition work is all around us, the roofers are putting on a beautiful new slate roof on the original 1939 building, and the new stair installation is proceeding. As soon as the stair is in place we will move Library staff to the attic to give the remaining spaces in the building to the contractor. Our permanent museum exhibits close on April 30th and we open our exciting photographic exhibit on the lives and times of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt on May 1st.

On March 29, 1945, FDR left the White House for the last time on a trip to Warm Springs, Georgia. He had first visited Warm Springs in the mid-1920s after hearing that the waters there had healing powers.  He hoped they would help him regain the use of his legs which were left paralyzed from a polio attack in 1921.

In 1926, FDR bought and renovated the old resort at Warm Springs, turning it into a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center for polio patients. Throughout his time as Governor of New York and President, FDR continued vacationing at Warm Springs. The cottage where he stayed became known as the “Little White House,” thanks to his frequent visits as president.

It was here that FDR went in April 1945 to rest and rejuvenate following the pressures of the 1944 campaign, the Yalta Conference, and the continued war effort.  On April 12, 1945, while sitting for a portrait by painter Elizabeth Shoumatoff, FDR suffered a massive stroke. He died a few hours later having never regained consciousness.

The President’s body was transported by train to Washington D.C. and then on to his estate in Hyde Park for burial. Thousands of mourners lined the tracks to say goodbye.

The White House appointment diaries for April 12, 1945 are available on our Franklin D. Roosevelt Day by Day website.

On April 2, 2012, the National Archives publicly released over 3 million images containing 1940 census responses. The information had been closed for a mandated 72 years, but is now available for free and online at

There were 132 million people living in the United States in 1940, Americans who had lived through the Great Depression and who would soon face world war on an unprecedented scale.

The U.S. government made a concerted effort to increase public participation in the census. Census Bureau marketing campaigns targeted the general public but also broke from tradition by specially reaching out to ethnic minorities, indigenous communities, and people of color. That year the census included standard questions from years past, but respondents were also asked for the first time about their income and whether they worked for New Deal agencies like the WPA, CCC, or NYA. Millions of people enumerated by the 1940 census are still living today.

The President, Mrs. Roosevelt and other members of the White House staff are listed in the District of Columbia enumeration district (ED) 1-74, which was taken on April 2, 1940. The information collected includes the age of the person, what state or country they were born in, their residence, employment information and their income for 1939. A full list of the 1940 Census questions can be found on the National Archives official 1940 Census website.

The full census information for the Roosevelts can be found here.

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