This year the TR Center is joining with Valerie Naylor, former superintendent of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, to hunt out the TR related collections in parks dedicated by him. “My goal is to get items that are critical but that we haven’t seen before,” Naylor states. We will post updates of her travels and finds.
Theodore Roosevelt is often given credit for creating the first national parks or for establishing the National Park Service – but he did not do either. The first National Park (Yellowstone) was established when TR was just 13 years old on March 1, 1872, and the National Park Service was created long after he left office on August 25, 1916. What Roosevelt did, however, was to add to the growing collection of parks, and to set the stage for what was to become a cohesive park system, which now totals 411 parks nationwide. Using the Antiquities Act, which he signed in 1906, he proclaimed 18 national monuments. And during his presidency, he signed five new national parks into existence.
The mission of the Theodore Roosevelt Center – to digitize all unpublished documents related to Theodore Roosevelt – is a challenge, but also an amazing opportunity. The documents are scattered in many places throughout the world, including the national parks. There are 6 national parks dedicated, at least in part, to Theodore Roosevelt: Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and my personal favorite – Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
When I was Superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (2003-2014), I was able to secure a Centennial Challenge grant from the National Park Service to digitize all TR related collections in the six parks dedicated to the 26th President. With matching funds and much more from the TR Center, the project proceeded. Digitization is essentially complete for the extensive TR collections in four of the TR parks and in progress in the two others.
But what about the 23 parks and monuments that TR created during his presidency? And what about the other national parks – like Yellowstone and Yosemite - where TR spent considerable time, and made contributions to their land base and history? Are there interesting and relevant documents relating to Theodore Roosevelt tucked away in the collections of those parks?
During this Centennial Year of the National Park Service –and beyond – I intend to contact, and in most cases visit, the parks that TR created and expanded during his Presidency. My goal is to determine whether there are items in the park museums that should be part of the TR Center collections. If so, I will find them and digitize them. Some of the parks may have no items that are Roosevelt-related. Other parks may have only one or two items of considerable significance. That is what the TR Center needs to know, and what I plan to find out.
The 23 parks that TR created are scattered throughout the American west, so I will be on the road, when my time and budget allows. Who knows what might be out there? I will keep you posted on my travels and what I find along the way.