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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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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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