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On January 30, the Roosevelt Library unveiled its latest initiative to harness new media technologies to reach new audiences– an online, interactive Virtual Tour of the Museum’s 12,000 square foot permanent exhibition.

The Virtual Tour lets visitors from all over the world experience the Museum and access additional educational materials. Funded by a generous grant from the Newman’s Own Foundation, it vastly increases the Museum’s reach, serving as an access option for people who cannot otherwise benefit from the Museum due to physical, sensory, economic, or intellectual barriers. Bringing the Museum online allows the Library to provide a more welcoming, inclusive, and meaningful experience to audiences from all walks of life.

The Virtual Tour was developed by Library staff working with the Dynology Corporation of Vienna, Virginia. Museum Technician Katherine Sardino guided the Library team on this innovative project. “In recent years, museums have started to embrace virtual tours,” Sardino notes. “Art museums have been more assertive than history museums in adopting this new interpretive tool. But few have as many features as our new tour.”

vt_dept_thumbThe new Tour is a comprehensive, self-guided interactive experience that gives anyone with a desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile device the ability to explore the permanent exhibition. Users can zoom-in and navigate through 360 degree panoramic views of the galleries. They can view select documents, artifacts, photographs, and graphics and examine the exhibition’s ten “Confront the Issue” special topics (which range from “What Caused the Great Depression” to “FDR and Japanese American Internment”). Users can also access other exciting features from the exhibition, including audio of Fireside Chats and Eleanor Roosevelt radio addresses, a program that browses the contents of FDR’s Oval Office desk, and footage from Mrs. Roosevelt’s television appearances during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Virtual Tour also features special educational resources produced by the Library’s Education staff, These include a series of web-exclusive “Teachable Moment:” films. These short films provide overviews of important topics from the Roosevelt era, including Social Security and FDR’s Four Freedoms.

Early social media responses to the Virtual Tour have been enthusiastic. A Facebook user enthused, “Excellent online tour. It whets my appetite to return to the Library, which I visited in 2007.” Another wrote, “This is the perfect way to celebrate the life of such a great man and American spirit, by making his life and work even more accessible.” A Twitter fan noted “New virtual tour of museum @FDRLibrary if Hyde Park NY is not on your travel itinerary (though it should be)” Another said simply: “Next best thing to being there”.

Experience the new Virtual Tour yourself: http://www.fdrlibraryvirtualtour.org

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The Roosevelt Library plans quite a trip for Summer 2014! Join us as we journey to seven continents and 95 countries for Around the World in 80 Days with the Roosevelts. Look for hundreds of internationally themed photographs, museum objects, and historic documents on the Library’s Tumblr — fdrlibrary.tumblr.com – and other social media accounts beginning Memorial Day weekend and culminating with the August 9th opening of our special exhibit, Read My Pins – the Madeleine Albright Collection.

80 consecutive days of special online features explore two lifetimes of travel and the Roosevelts’ common commitment to diplomacy and human rights. These posts draw on rich historical collections housed in both the Archives and Museum of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, and show the Roosevelts’ unique relationship with people and leaders across the globe. Learn how an American president worked directly with towering international figures, became the first to fly overseas while in office, and created the United Nations. Find out how Eleanor Roosevelt’s support of Allied troops in World War II and her advocacy for universal human rights inspired her famous moniker, First Lady of the World. We hope you’ll join us for this fascinating journey through the lives and work of two extraordinary global figures of the 20th century. Bon Voyage!

By Herman Eberhardt, Supervisory Museum Curator

The Roosevelt Library’s new 12,000 square foot $6 million permanent exhibition, which opened to the public in June 2013, features a variety of audiovisual experiences, including an array of interactive touchscreen programs. They help us tell the vital story of the Roosevelt era to new generations of Americans in fresh and engaging ways. These exhibits are just one part of a wider ongoing effort at the Library to harness new media technologies to reach new audiences.

Later this year, the Museum will unveil two new media initiatives that will greatly expand accessibility to our exhibits.

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We are currently working with Audio Description Associates of Takoma Park, Maryland, on an Audio Description Tour of the new permanent exhibition for blind and vision-impaired visitors. The tour will be free to the public and available in both and English and Spanish language versions. Museum visitors will be able to download the audio tour to their own handheld devices or access it on one of the free hand-held media players that will be available for loan at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center. The tour will also be accessible to online visitors on the Library’s web site.

Another exciting new media program in development is an online, interactive Virtual Tour of the permanent exhibition. Funded by a grant from the Newman’s Own Foundation, this tour will allow users from all over the world to experience our Museum and access additional educational materials. This project supports the Foundation’s goal of providing access to resources that contribute to the development of a civil society.

The virtual tour will employ high definition panoramic photography to give off-site users the experience of walking through the Museum. A zoom function will let users move around the galleries and select and learn more about specific artifacts, documents, photographs, and graphics. The Museum is working with the Dynology Corporation of Vienna, Virginia, on the development of the tour. Dynology is on the cutting edge of this new media tool. In recent years, a growing number of museums have begun to offer virtual tours. But most of these projects have involved art museums. History museums have been slower to embrace this new technology. Recently, Dynology broke new ground in the use of virtual tours in history museums with their innovative virtual tour of the United States Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Virginia. Now they are working with us to expand on that model and create an even deeper and richer virtual experience.

Katherine Sardino, our multi-talented Museum Technician, is leading the Museum’s team on both of these innovative projects, which blend technology with history to advance the Library’s goal of presenting “A New Deal for a New Generation.” Keep watching our website and social media for updates on the rollout of these projects later this year.

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80th Anniversary – Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 Presidential Inauguration

Admission ticket to the 1933 Presidential Inauguration.

Admission ticket to the 1933 Presidential Inauguration.

Eighty years ago, on March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated as President of the United States for the first time. As he approached the rostrum to take the oath of office at the Capitol, he braced himself on his son James’s arm. Breaking precedent, he recited the entire oath, instead of simply repeating “I do.” Then, as the crowd grew quiet, he opened his inaugural address.

The new President was addressing a nation that was struggling amidst the greatest economic depression in its history. Roosevelt offered his fellow Americans reassurance: “This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive, and will prosper.” Then, in bold words that reverberate in public memory, he proclaimed, “. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

This now-famous line got little reaction. The greatest applause came when Roosevelt declared that if Congress didn’t act, he would ask for “broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency. . . .” Americans were ready to grant FDR sweeping power. As he proclaimed, “This nation asks for action, and action now.”

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Roosevelt took all four of his presidential oaths of office on this leather bound, Dutch language Bible. The Bible was made in 1686 and contains Roosevelt family records from the early 18th century.

The slideshow below shows images of President Roosevelt taken on March 4, 1933.

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Roosevelt and Lincoln

“I live, temporarily, in the same house and the same rooms once occupied by him. The very window from which he gazed in the dark days is the same.”

-Franklin D. Roosevelt, Remarks on Visiting the Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.
June 24, 1936

President Roosevelt was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. He often cited the revered nineteenth century president in speeches, evoked his image in campaign material, and collected or received over 100 pieces of Lincoln related ephemera.

These objects from the FDR Library’s Museum collection reflect the connection between President Roosevelt and President Lincoln.

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 Both FDR and his opponents referred to Lincoln in their campaign material. The poster on the left was used during Roosevelt’s 1932 campaign. The button on the right was used by Republicans in 1940 to criticize FDR’s attempt to seek a third term.

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Henry Weber of Oakville, Indiana, made this desk piece from the wood of a 350 year old white oak tree that stood beside the trail leading from the Lincoln cabin to the grave of President Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln in Spencer County, Indiana. Mr. Weber’s son, Horace, was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the area and sent the stump of the tree to his father in 1933. The granite piece at the bottom was taken from Devil’s Den at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Webers sent the completed piece to FDR as a gift in 1937.

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President Lincoln gave this pair of Colt pistols to Kıbrıslı Mehmed Emin Pacha, Governor of Adrianople, Turkey, in 1864. The gift was presented in acknowledgement of his services in securing the assassins of Reverend William Ward Merriam, an American missionary. Rev. Merriam was killed when his caravan was attacked during a return trip from Constantinople to his post at Phillipopolis. In March 1945, the pistols were presented to President Roosevelt by Baron Francis J. Solari of Izmir, Turkey, and Rome, Italy, through Myron C. Taylor, the Personal Representative of the President to Pope Pius XII. The firearms are Model 1862 .36-caliber Colt police pistols, with silver handles by Tiffany, serial numbers 25513 E and 25514 E.

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Dr. John E. Washington, author of the book, They Knew Lincoln, a history of the President’s White House staff, gave this photograph of historic pieces to FDR in 1942. Fixed to the photo is a small “Lock of hair removed from Pres. Lincoln’s head by Wm. Slade his messenger while preparing the body for burial,” and a small “Piece of dress worn by Mrs. Lincoln the night of the assassination showing blood of Pres. Lincoln. Given by Mrs. Slade to her cousin Mrs. Brooks.”

70th Anniversary of the Casablanca Conference – January 14-24, 1943

Roosevelt and Churchill at the Casablanca Press Conference, January 24, 1943, the last day of the summit meeting. NPx 48-22:244

Roosevelt and Churchill at the Casablanca Press Conference, January 24, 1943, the last day of the summit meeting. NPx 48-22:244

From 1942 to 1944 one subject dominated Allied strategic debate—the creation of a Second Front in Europe. This thorny issue caused friction between America, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. It topped the agenda of the January 1943 summit meeting between FDR and Winston Churchill at Casablanca, Morocco, held shortly after the Allied invasion of North Africa.

Though Soviet leader Stalin didn’t attend this meeting, his feelings were clear. For 18 months, the Soviets had single-handedly resisted a massive German invasion. Stalin demanded that his allies strike quickly at the heart of Hitler’s empire in northwest Europe, establishing a “second from” to draw off some German forces from the USSR.

FDR’s military advisers favored the earliest possible assault on northwest Europe. But Churchill argued that a large buildup of forces was necessary to ensure a successful invasion. Because this was unlikely in 1943, he pushed for a more limited, “peripheral” strategy of attack along the edges of the Axis empire, starting with an assault on Sicily. Meanwhile, a buildup of forces in Britain for an invasion of northwest Europe would begin. Roosevelt, eager to keep the American public focused on the fighting in Europe, agreed.

To ease Stalin’s disappointment, FDR offered a signal of Anglo-American resolve: he announced the Allies would only accept an “unconditional surrender” from the Axis Powers.

Below is a series of objects, photographs, and documents from the FDR Library’s collection related to the Casablanca Conference.

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This flag of the President of the United States was handmade on board the U.S.S. Memphis by five sailors at FDR’s request and flown from that ship while at anchor in Bathurst, Gambia, West Africa, in January 1943. The Memphis had been ordered to anchor off Bathurst in order to provide safe quarters for FDR and his party en route to and from the Casablanca Conference. This was the first time the President’s flag had ever been flown from an American warship in an African Port. Upon seeing the flag for the first time, President Roosevelt stated that “No ship has ever made a President’s flag is such record time, and it is a darn good flag.”

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These pages from the guestbook at the Casablanca Conference include the signatures of Sultan Mohammed V of Morocco, Churchill, Roosevelt, advisor to the President Harry Hopkins, Minister to French North Africa Robert D. Murphy, General George S. Patton, naval aide to the President Admiral John L. McCrea, Elliott Roosevelt, and co-President of the Free French Forces General Henri Giraud. From the Roosevelt Family, Business & Personal Papers.

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FDR used this U.S. Army mess kit and canteen at a field luncheon during his visit to Rabat, Morocco, to review American troops on January 21, 1943.

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Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill with their Chiefs of Staff, January 22, 1943. NPx 66-104(20)

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On the evening of January 22, the Sultan of Morocco hosted Roosevelt and Churchill to dinner. During the dinner he presented these gifts to the President. The dagger is fitted with a gold hilt and sheath and is encased in a teakwood box inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The gold tiara encrusted with semi-precious stones from the Atlas Mountains and a pair of gold bracelets from the Sultan’s collection of family jewels were presented as gifts for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Aquamarine Stone (MO 1947.115.1)

Several weeks after winning his second presidential election, FDR boarded the cruiser USS Indianapolis for a month long “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America. On November 27, 1936, the President stopped at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he met with Brazilian President Getúlio Vargas.

During this visit, President and Mrs. Vargas presented FDR with a stunning gift for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt— a 1,298 carat aquamarine (seen above). This remarkable stone was from the Vargas’ private collection and was the largest cut stone of its kind at the time. It was presented in an art deco style box, custom made by jeweler Casa Oscar Machado.

The stone was found in a mine in the State of Minas Gerais, about 880 miles from Rio de Janeiro. The mine, known as Laranjeira (Orange), was later renamed Pedra Azul (Blue Stone) for its rich finds. The rough stone, weighing 1.3 kilograms, was brought to cutter Gustav Reitbauer of Amsterdam Limited, purveyor of precious gemstones. It yielded two cut stones—the one that was given to the First Lady and another, at 865 carats, that was sold to the Maharadja of Kaputala.

In 1947, the aquamarine caused a minor controversy for Mrs. Roosevelt when syndicated columnist and radio personality Drew Pearson accused her of trying to sell the piece after she made an attempt to discover its value. ER ultimately decided to donate the precious stone to the Roosevelt Library and wrote of the incident in her autobiography This I Remember: “I think it does interest people and perhaps does serve a good purpose by symbolizing the kindness and generosity of Brazilian feeling toward our country.”

FDR’s “Lucky” Campaign Hat (MO 1945.58.20)

This hat is one of several distinctive “lucky” felt hats Franklin D. Roosevelt wore during his four presidential campaigns. As you can see in the photos below, these trademark fedoras were a common sight on the campaign trail.

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After the 1940 election, Roosevelt generously donated this hat to be auctioned at a fundraiser for the Motion Picture Relief Fund (MPRF). Well-known actors Edward G. Robinson and Melvyn Douglas—both strong FDR supporters—jointly purchased the hat for $3,200 (roughly $50,000 in today’s dollars). This act by the President was a surprise to some, including the First Lady. “The President is very superstitious about that hat, I never expected him to part with it,” she told Jean Hersholt, actor and President of the MPRF.

During the summer of 1944, as Roosevelt campaigned for a fourth term as president, Robinson and Douglas returned the hat to the President. At the time, Robinson was entertaining troops overseas and Douglas was serving as a captain in the US Army. “I believe most men have a special affection for their old hats,” wrote Grace Tully, FDR’s secretary, in her response.

Letter from Mrs. Edward (Gladys) G. Robinson to FDR. August 3, 1944.

 

Copy of the response letter from FDR’s Private Secretary Grace Tully to Mrs. Robinson. August 24, 1944.

After winning the 1944 election, FDR gave this hat to the Roosevelt Library. The hat will be on display in the Library’s new permanent exhibit, opening June 30, 2013.

1940 Wendell Willkie Campaign Buttons

The 1940 election was the most challenging and divisive of FDR’s political career. The President’s decision to seek an unprecedented third term inflamed his opponents—and some former supporters—who charged he wanted to become a dictator. And his efforts to aid countries fighting the Axis Powers led to charges he would drag America into war.

These issues made the 1940 election a particularly colorful one for campaign memorabilia. FDR’s Republican opponent in 1940 was Wendell Willkie, a business leader with no experience in political office. Willkie and the Republicans focused considerable criticism on Roosevelt’s attempt to win a third term. While there was no constitutional barrier to a third term in 1940, no president had ever exceeded the two-term precedent established by George Washington. The fifteen Willkie campaign buttons seen above include many with a “third term” theme. There are also buttons aimed at Eleanor Roosevelt—reflecting the First Lady’s high profile in Washington.

Despite an often bruising campaign, Willkie and Roosevelt became allies after the election. A committed internationalist, Willkie supported FDR’s controversial efforts to aid the Allies and later traveled the globe on behalf of the President during World War II. He also worked with Eleanor as an advocate for human rights. Undeterred by this cordial relationship with the Roosevelts, Willkie ran a brief campaign in 1944, failing to obtain the Republican nomination. He died just a month before FDR was elected for a fourth term.

After President Roosevelt’s death in 1945, Republicans mounted a campaign to pass an amendment to the Constitution placing a cap on the number of terms a president could serve. The 22nd Amendment, limiting presidents to two terms, was ratified in 1951.

1936 Podium (M.O. 2007.125)

MO 2007.125 Podium Used by Franklin D. Roosevelt

This aluminum and steel podium was specially designed for use by FDR during a 1936 presidential campaign stop at the new Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri—an immense structure built with funds from the New Deal’s Public Works Administration (PWA).  A plaque inside the podium reads, “Presented by the citizens of Kansas City, Missouri/ to the honorable/ Franklin Delano Roosevelt/ President of the United States of America/ on the occasion of his dedication/ of the new Municipal Auditorium/ October 13, 1936/ H.F. McElroy, city manager.” Following the President’s speech the podium was shipped to the White House. It was later transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration.

With considerable physical effort, using specially designed podiums such as this one, FDR was able to deliver his speeches from a standing position while supporting himself with his arms. Wearing leg braces, the President would approach a podium like this one with the aid of a cane and the strong arm of a companion. They supported his weight while he pitched his body forward.  He then placed his hands on the arm rails at the back of the podium and, using his arms to hold his weight, moved himself forward the last few steps.

Though it appears to be an ordinary podium from the front, this one has thigh-high extensions in the back, providing the necessary stability to support the President’s weight. The podium’s six feet could be bolted to the floor to add further support. With its raised panels and modern materials, this podium is particularly attractive and well-built, in keeping with its intended use at the dedication of a newly minted building. It includes two handsome presidential seals on the front.  Other podiums FDR used were more utilitarian in design and materials (see photo below). But all served to allow the President to stand while delivering his speeches.

FDR speaks at a wooden podium, August 11, 1938.

FDR’s stop at the new Kansas City auditorium was part of a ten-day campaign tour that began on Thursday, October 8, 1936 when he, Eleanor, and a delegation of family and close political associates left Hyde Park by train. During this tour the President visited eleven states. Traveling by train, he made speaking stops in Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, and New York before returning to Hyde Park on October 17.  

The Kansas City stop on October 13 was the fifth of six train stops on that date. Roosevelt’s day began with a speech in Wichita, Kansas. Next he gave three “rear-platform remarks” from the back of his train in Florence, Emporia, and Olathe, Kansas.  After his speech at the auditorium in Kansas City he returned to the campaign train and gave one last talk from back of the train in Carrollton, Missouri.

FDR at the podium, Municipal Auditorium October 13, 1936.

In Kansas City, FDR spoke to a packed house, including a large group of young people seated in the front rows. He directed his remarks toward this new generation, who were growing up during very difficult economic times:

“As we take stock, we recognize that the most priceless of our human assets are the young men and women of America–the raw material out of which the United States must shape its future.… And so, the highest duty of any Government is to order public affairs so that opportunities for youth shall be made ever broader and firmer.”

FDR touted his administration’s investment in institutions that served youth, especially schools. “The school,” he noted, “is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.” He also extolled New Deal initiatives like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the National Youth Administration (NYA) which were helping young people find direction, work, and education and giving them hope for the future.

The Municipal Auditorium was designed in the then popular
Art Moderne/ Decco style and was hailed at the time as an
architectural triumph. Today the beautifully preserved and
maintained building is a city landmark, hosting sports events,
musical acts and other cultural events.

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