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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.”
The 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
Starting on August 9th, Museum visitors will be able to experience a new traveling exhibition Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection in the William J. vanden Heuvel Special Exhibitions Gallery.
This unique exhibit features a collection of more than 200 distinctive pins and explores how Secretary of State Madeleine Albright—the first woman to serve in that office—used jewelry as a diplomatic tool. Organized by the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, the exhibit has been touring the nation for several years. There is no additional charge to see the exhibit at the Roosevelt Library.
Madeleine Albright served under President Bill Clinton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1993-1997. In 1997, the President appointed her as Secretary of State. At that time she was the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. During her years (1997-2001) as Secretary, Albright became known for wearing a wide variety of distinctive broaches that conveyed her views about the diplomatic or political situation at hand. Foreign officials began to pay special attention to Albright’s selection of pins to uncover clues about her state of mind. “I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal,” she later said. “While President George H.W. Bush had been known for saying ‘Read my lips,’ I began urging colleagues and reporters to ‘Read my pins.’”
A display of Eleanor Roosevelt pins will complement the exhibition during its time in Hyde Park. Read My Pins will remain on display through November 2, 2014. Secretary Albright will make a special public appearance at the Roosevelt Library on the evening of September 4 in connection with the exhibition.
The new museum galleries will feature two immersive Fireside Chat Environments. Each of these environments will have a radio and period furnishings, inviting visitors to sit and listen. After the Chat audio concludes, visitors can hear readings of actual letters — representing a variety of opinions — giving the visitor a chance to hear how Americans felt about the president’s leadership during the Depression and World War II.
Putting together a brand new 12,000 square foot museum exhibit has been quite an adventure. There are countless components that go into the design and fabrication of an exhibit. Currently, we are working with a design company, an interactive contractor, a fabrication company and an audiovisual production company.
One of the highlights of the experience came on May 6th when museum curator Herman Eberhardt and I traveled to New York City to meet our audiovisual contractor, Monadnock Media, to record the narration for our Legacy film. There are 17 audiovisual productions in our new exhibit ranging from silent film treatments to immersive theater experiences. But there is no more important film than the one which will be shown in the Legacy Theater, the very last thing people experience in our exhibit. Here our visitors should understand that the world we live in today is still very much the world that Franklin Roosevelt envisioned and fought for.
Our team struggled with the script for this important theater. Nothing seemed to hit the mark until our audiovisual producer found an essay that President Bill Clinton had written about FDR back in 2000. As soon as we read it we knew it was our script. Clinton captured the essence of FDR and his legacy.
I reached out to President Clinton through his staff and my dear colleague, Terri Garner, director of the Clinton Presidential Library. I was not only asking to use Clinton’s essay but I wanted him to read it as the narration for our film. A lot to ask one of the busiest former presidents in our country’s history.
I knew the one thing I had in my favor was that Clinton loved FDR. He had visited the Roosevelt Library three times during his presidency and once after leaving office. Fortunately for us he agreed to record – our last hurdle was working with his staff to find the time in his busy schedule.
We did the recording at a New York City hotel after he attended a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. He seemed a bit tired after a very long day but he was charming and gracious and the minute I heard him reading his words I knew we were going to have an amazing experience for our museum visitors. Our heartfelt thanks to President Clinton for his amazing generosity with his time and his words and to Terri Garner, director of the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and Elizabeth Bibi, senior communications associate for the Clinton Foundation, for their assistance in making it all happen.
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.
During Phase 2 of the FDR Library’s building renovation special measures have been taken to protect the largest object in the Museum collection—FDR’s 1936 Ford Phaeton automobile. This vehicle, which features hand controls that allowed the President to drive it without the use of his legs, has been on display on the Library’s lower level for over 65 years. Because of its size, the car could not be removed from the lower level while demolition and construction work took place there. So conservators were brought in to build a special crate to protect the car and allow it to be moved to different locations on the lower level as renovation work progresses there.
The photographs below depict the extensive protective measures. The car was sealed inside a wood crate lined with Marvelseal, an aluminized nylon and polyethylene barrier film that resists the transmission of water vapor and off-gassing from wooden surfaces. The crate was lined with over 100 packs of desiccant to maintain proper humidity levels. A temperature and humidity sensor inside the crate constantly records readings. It can be viewed through the crate’s windows for easy monitoring. ShockWatch labels at several locations on the crate indicate any rough movement.
FDR’s car will be back on public display in the summer of 2013 when the Library’s building renovation is completed and the Museum premiers its new permanent exhibits.
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.
To prepare the lower levels of the historic Library building for the next phase of renovation the Museum staff is moving all 35,000 artifacts to the attic floor. ARTEX Fine Art Services is assisting the staff with the move.
The massive museum collection—including campaign memorabilia, ship models and naval prints, clothing and presidential gifts—will be returned to storage on the basement level after those spaces are fully renovated in early 2013. The new permanent museum exhibits—designed by Gallagher and Associates and scheduled to open in summer 2013—will feature many items from the collection that have rarely been seen by museum visitors.