I am currently a student at Dickinson State University and I recently completed my internship at the Theodore Roosevelt Center. As an intern, I enjoyed the opportunity to work on the Harvard Library Collection. During my time at the Theodore Roosevelt Center, I learned a great deal about the process and work that is done to complete a digital library and also about Theodore Roosevelt himself.
Making a digital library is by no means an easy task, especially when the library is centered on Theodore Roosevelt, who, to say the least, was a very wordy man. I started out my internship formatting images received from Harvard University. During this process, I was able to see many interesting letters that Roosevelt wrote but since I was trying to get the images formatted, I did not have the time to read the letters in detail. Where I really discovered Roosevelt is when I was able to do the metadata entry for the images.
After formatting images, I began the cataloging process. During cataloging, I read the letter and found as much information about the letter as I could and entered it into the database. The majority of the letters I cataloged were from Theodore Roosevelt during his days as a college student at Harvard University. As I read through letters that Roosevelt wrote, mainly to his sister Anna Roosevelt Cowles, I couldn’t help but feel some connection with him. This may seem quite strange! What does a college student in 2011 have in common with Theodore Roosevelt? Well more than you would think actually. As hard as it may be to believe Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States of America, was very much your typical college student.
I first began to notice my connection with Roosevelt as a college student when he frequently wrote home about how homesick he was. I remember my freshman year of college. Instead of writing letters home about being homesick, I often called, texted, or emailed family or friends to tell them how much I missed them and being home. Coming to college was a completely new experience, and Roosevelt felt the same way. Another area I found a link between Theodore Roosevelt and myself is that he often mentions studying for exams. Roosevelt was worried about his grades and his performance in school, very similar to how I feel now especially with finals week coming up. In the letter below, Roosevelt mentions that he had 5 exams!
Detail, Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Anna Roosevelt Cowles. 24 Nov 1878. MS Am 1834 (151). Houghton Library. Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.
I can only imagine the hours spent studying in the library, trying to get all that information to stick into your brain. Not only does Roosevelt talk often about the examinations he already had or will be having, but he mentions his grades in his courses as well. He earned very good grades in college, sometimes even mentioning being at the top of his class, but he also studied and worked very hard for these grades.
Roosevelt was a very accomplished president, and did many things people only dream about. Before I started my internship it seemed to me that everything just fell into place for Roosevelt, and that he was somehow destined to lead the country. The more I read his letters, the more I found Roosevelt had absolutely no idea what he was going to be doing in his future. This uncertainty about the future is very common among college students. In one letter which Roosevelt writes to his sister Anna in October of 1878, he mentions that he should probably start thinking about his future after college.
From what I have read, Roosevelt earned very good grades in school. However he was also interested in other things. He was part of many clubs and organizations where he often attended meetings and he taught Sunday School on the weekends. He had several friends who often visited him. A few of his very close friends spent many hours in his room, talking and studying. Roosevelt also went on weekend getaways to see family and friends or to explore.
As a college student, I know that between studying, clubs and organizations and friends, there is not a whole lot of time to do other things. However, like many college students, Roosevelt found time to do one more thing, pursue the opposite sex. He was always chasing girls, mentioning how fond he was of a certain girl, or how he thought another girl was very pretty. In the letters I read, I was able to watch Roosevelt and Alice Lee’s relationship develop. In the letter below, he tells his sister,, “I like the two girls more and more every day – especially pretty Alice.” Alice Hathaway Lee and Roosevelt would marry in 1880, a year and a half after he wrote this letter.
Detail, Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Anna Roosevelt Cowles, 20 April 1879. MS Am 1834 (162). Theodore Roosevelt Collection. Houghton Library, Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.
So does the relationship between Roosevelt and me mean that I am going to be President of the United States of America? Probably not, but at least it’s nice to know that the man who ran the country, laid the groundwork for the National Park System, hunted wild animals, and did so many other things was really just your typical college student. It gives those of us who feel like school is never going to end a little bit of hope. I am grateful for the opportunity that my internship at the Theodore Roosevelt Center gave me. I was able to learn a lot of things about Theodore Roosevelt, not only as a president, but as a man and a college student. Completing the steps that it takes to complete a digital library has been a great experience.