Our early presidents have no official presidential libraries. The first such library was established in 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt donated his papers to the federal government. An act of Congress followed in 1955 establishing the federally funded library system under the umbrella of the National Archives and Records Administration. However, it was still at the discretion of the president to donate his papers to the government upon leaving office. It was in 1978, with the fallout from Watergate, that the Presidential Records Act officially declared the records of the president to be federal property and mandated a presidential library to preserve them.
Because of the late establishment of presidential libraries, no definitive repository exists for Theodore Roosevelt’s archival materials. While the Library of Congress and Harvard University hold large collections, many more of Roosevelt’s papers are scattered in libraries and archives throughout the country. When the TR Center started its digital library initiative, we needed to create cooperative partnerships with these repositories. Though we have only touched the surface of the collections we will want to include in the Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library, I wanted to introduce you to the major partners we have now who have helped us to get this ambitious project off the ground.
The Library of Congress was our first formal partner in digitization. In March of 2008, we signed an agreement to digitize their Theodore Roosevelt Papers, a collection of roughly 250,000 documents or 600,000 digital image files – the largest single Roosevelt collection anywhere. The first documents were scanned from microfilm in June of that year, and the final shipment of images was received from the Manuscripts division in January of 2009. TR Center staff, interns and trained volunteers are cataloging these items to make them accessible in the digital library. In April of this year, we received our first shipment of materials from the Prints and Photographs division, including a series of Edward Curtis photographs, stereographic images and political cartoons. As we continue our partnership with the Library of Congress, we will also digitize materials from their Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound division.
It was also in 2008 that we began our partnership with the National Park Service. In April of that year the TR Center dedicated its first remote kiosk at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. That same month, the Park was awarded a National Park Service Centennial Challenge Grant for the digitization of Roosevelt materials at six National Park Service sites. In March 2009, digitization began at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. In June 2009, digitization was completed at Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial and in July 2009, digitization started at Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site. We are excited to announce that just this month digitization began in earnest at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. We continue to develop relationships with Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Our newest partnership is with Houghton Library at Harvard University. In October of 2009, Harvard proposed a pilot project to digitize materials in their collection written by Theodore Roosevelt himself. A formal agreement is imminent and digitization will begin in earnest soon.
In addition to these major repositories, we are seeking out smaller collections held by other organizations and private individuals. The gathering of these items in a single unified collection offers a unique and important resource to scholars and to the public. If you have custody of materials you think might be of value to users of the digital library, please contact us. We are always interested in creating new partnerships as we work towards creating the most definitive digital collection of Roosevelt materials.