Column: Visiting the FDR Library and Museum

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Today, as we continue our road trip to and from Cape Cod, we make the last stop in Hyde Park, N.Y., visiting the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

Before Franklin D. Roosevelt, presidents considered documents and other materials created during their terms their personal property. Some sold or destroyed them, and others donated them to the Library of Congress or other institutions. President Roosevelt wanted a better system for preserving what he considered public property. In 1939, Roosevelt convinced his mother, Sara, to donate 16 acres of land from her Springwood Estate for a library for items created during his service as president and his prior public service, including as governor of New York. Roosevelt, an amateur architect, helped design the library building in the Dutch Colonial style. This first presidential library, built with private funds, was dedicated on June 30, 1941, early in FDR’s unprecedented third term. Roosevelt often visited the library and made some of his famous fireside chats from a studio inside the building.   

Today, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum contains about 50 million items related to FDR, which he donated to the United States. Wings completed in 1972 contain 3 million items related to his wife, Eleanor. Besides documents and similar materials, the museum contains exhibits related to FDR’s four terms as president, including one displaying his desk. Another exhibit, depicting a 1940s-era kitchen, allows visitors to listen to recordings of FDR’s fireside chats. Other exhibits remember his four campaigns for president, including rare recordings from the earliest days of television. Other exhibits display some of his famous statements and speeches, including his famous articulation of the “four freedoms” in January 1941.  If you are near Hyde Park, a visit to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum is a must.

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