FDR Presidential Library and Museum

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Reopens

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and MuseumA New Deal for a New Generation!

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum Reopened Sunday, June 30, 2013 with exciting permanent exhibits. These exhibits tell the story of the Roosevelt presidency, beginning in the depths of the Great Depression and continuing through the New Deal years and World War II, with an emphasis on both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's relationship with the American people. Special interactive video tables and screens include digital flip-books, plus they've added immersive audio-visual theaters. Rarely seen artifacts bring a New Deal to a New Generation. Immerse yourself in decades of American history!

The Roosevelt Library's new museum experience is better accessible to people with disabilities and language barriers. New state-of-the-art exhibits tell of FDR's heroic struggle to be strong and resume a political career after polio. Tactile exhibits enhance the experience for children and visitors with impaired vision. The Library now offers a bilingual audio tour, using current and developing technologies to bring the story of the Roosevelts to more diverse audiences.

It's the first major revision of the exhibits detailing President Roosevelt's life and legacy since FDR dedicated the Library at its opening in 1941. Roosevelt took office in March 1933, during the Depression, and died suddenly in April 1945. World War II was about to end and peace was on the horizon. This is depicted starkly, as you come around a corner and come face to face with the headline blaring his sudden death. The Navy hymn starts playing, and it's an emotional moment. In between, the world and our country had changed dramatically. When he was elected, one in four Americans lived on a farm. Women had only had the right to vote for 12 years! By 1950, only 16% of our residents lived on farms, and the government was much like what it is today. Each election year is depicted with a proscenium framing fun facts and stats about the nation in that year, in red, white and blue. I love that fusion of photos and information that really gives you a snapshot of our changing nation.

Naturally, the Library exhibits papers and artifacts from the Oval Office and famous events such as signing the treaty at Malta. But it's much more comprehensive, with many interesting objects, each with a story. It shows how he changed the very world we inhabit; how he created it by inventing the agencies and launching the programs we're so familiar with today. This is when unions arose, the USA that worried about and cared for others; and where America became a world power, with our president as the leader of that free world. Sit at a replica of a 1920s kitchen or a 1930s dining room and listen to FDR's soothing voice deliver a fireside chat on a real antique radio! He was not afraid to do things- to do something, try anything, to relieve the crushing depression in which we found ourselves. You may be surprised to see how many new initiatives he undertook.

When FDR was President, the media agreed never to take his picture in a wheelchair or using crutches. Unthinkable nowadays! Back then, people equated physical weakness with weakness of the mind. We needed America's leaders to look strong. We were in the midst of the Great Depression, and then, at war. We could not show any signs of weakness to the world. The Library's archives have but four photos that show FDR on crutches; they are included in the new exhibit.

Don't miss the display where you can lift up on a weight and feel what it was like to carry ten pounds of metal around with you all the times. It must not have been easy, and in fact, was no doubt quite unpleasant to be trapped inside those metal braces! There's also a metal ship model you can touch, and a small statue of Fala - down on the floor, where he would have been. Of course, there's Fala memorabilia, too!

Eleanor's life is interwoven throughout the exhibits, much like in FDR's life. You'll be astonished at her extensive FBI files; really, there's a big metal filing cabinet filled with her files; it seems J. Edgar Hoover was a bit preoccupied with her. You'll also see photos of her with Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy, Jr., as she lived until 1962 and became "First Lady of the World". The iconic photo of her walking across the tarmac from a plane carrying her own suitcase brought tears to my eyes; next to the photo was the actual small, brown case that represented our First Lady's luggage. Her secretary donated it to the museum. She was very brave. The KKK put a price on her head and it didn't stop her from championing Civil Rights. They found dynamite packed around her tires. That didn't stop her either. The Secret Service wasn't sure they could protect her in the south. She drove herself at night through the Blue Ridge Mountains to speak at an engagement the next day. She later told then she passed burning crosses and she knew they were a message for her. And yet she was undeterred. The contents of her wallet at the time of her death are also displayed. Included is a pistol permit, so perhaps she could protect herself! They were brave people indeed, who transformed the word as we know it.

The final video about FDR's legacy is narrated by former President William Clinton! At the end, you are downstairs, and you have to walk out through the actual archives and storage spaces. They've enclosed them in glass so you can see the many interesting items in the collection. See his Ford Phaeton that was equipped with hand controls for him to drive it (and it dispensed lit cigarettes!) You'll pass his many ship models (he was undersecretary of the navy), books, artwork, furniture, and much more collectible, well, stuff! 

As more and more Americans have no personal memory of the Roosevelt Era, it's increasingly vital the lives and legacies of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt be preserved and presented to new generations. With a new $35 million building renovation and $6 million in new museum exhibits, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, a part of the National Archives and Records Administration, presents a New Deal for a New Generation. The exhibits were installed with private funds raised by the Roosevelt Institute. The 12,000-square-foot exhibition was designed by Gallagher & Associates; the Museum curator is Herman R. Eberhardt.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is at 4079 Albany Post Road/Route 9, Hyde Park. They're open daily, 9am-5pm, and you can get a combination ticket for $14 to include a tour his lifelong home next door, Springwood, as well. Start at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor Center and see the film, too. Your ticket's good for two days and you may well need all of that time. There's also the New Del Bookstore for some follow up reading and souvenirs, and the casual Mrs. Nesbitt's Cafe. Call 845-486-7770, or visit

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