Library of Congress site for Theodore Roosevelt's papers
You may have heard that the Library of Congress recently finished digitizing the papers of President Theodore Roosevelt, documenting his extraordinary career in the White House and as vice president, governor of New York, and as a naturalist, writer, and reformer. Before we dig into more about their massive endeavor, many of you may be asking how this affects our work here at the Theodore Roosevelt Center.
If his papers have all been digitized, does that mean our work is done?
Unlike modern presidents, Theodore Roosevelt does not have a presidential library (yet). Instead, his personal and presidential papers are scattered in libraries and other sites across the United States, including the Library of Congress, but also Harvard College Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the New York Public Library, and dozens of other institutions and private collections.
Think of Roosevelt’s papers at the Library of Congress as one piece to the TR puzzle. Or perhaps pie is a better analogy here, given the time of year. The TR papers from the LOC are a large pie slice of the material out there on TR, but by no means the whole pie.
The mission of the Theodore Roosevelt Center is to gather together and digitize copies of ALL Roosevelt-related items, to make his legacy accessible to scholars and schoolchildren, enthusiasts and interested citizens. Items in our digital library include correspondence to and from Roosevelt, diary entries, notes, political cartoons, scrapbooks, newspaper columns and magazine articles by and about Roosevelt, speeches, photographs, film clips, and audio recordings. We add descriptions and subject tags to each item, to make the digital library truly searchable. Our hope is that, as we continue to collect from partner institutions and build the digital library, you’ll be able to go to our website to access all of the historical documents related to TR.
As I said above, though, the Library of Congress is the largest slice of our TR library pie. The increased use of the typewriter during the Progressive Era, combined with TR’s correspondence habits and popularity, meant that he produced exponentially more documents than most Presidents who preceded him. The collection at the Library of Congress was begun when Roosevelt sent the first shipment of his papers from his Oyster Bay, New York, home to the Library in 1917. His deposits were made a permanent gift in 1919. Roosevelt’s family members and his literary executor made additional contributions to the collection in the years following. Roosevelt’s papers comprise one of the largest presidential collections held by the Library, with more than 150,000 documents.
The papers were copied to microfilm in the mid-20th century as part of the Presidential Papers Project at the Library of Congress. This made the recent digitization process much easier. The microfilm reels were first converted to digital files in 2008, for the use of the Theodore Roosevelt Center in creating our digital library. The Library of Congress has now made those digital files available online, organized by the original archival series and folder list. (That is, they are not searchable as individual items in the same way that our digital library makes possible.)
A great bonus of the Library's digitization project is that 3 deposits of material that were donated after the microfilm was created, and which are labeled Series 16 in the collection, were digitized. This material was previously only available to researchers (and us!) by traveling to visit the Library of Congress in person. We can't wait to dig in to this new material and to add it to the digital library!
The entire collection is accesible at loc.gov/collections/theodore-roosevelt-papers/, with featured items, an overview of the collection, and links to additional resources for educators and researchers, from timelines to teaching tools.
So what can you find at LOC and what can you find in the digital library?
LOC: The entire Theodore Roosevelt Papers collection (including the additions!), organized by series and folder. For example, Series 1 includes letters to TR dated 1759 to 1919. The first "folder" (or link) in this series contains items dated between August 1759 and May 1898, the second "folder" items dated June 1898 to July 1899, and so on. Each folder contains from about 750 to 1200 pages, and on each date, items are organized by the name of the creator - so if you know when something was written and who wrote it, you can find a specific item within the collection.
TR Digital Library: About 53,000 Theodore Roosevelt items, fully searchable by date, type of item (photograph, letter, diary, audio file, etc.), creator, or subject. Of the material available to date, nearly 40,000 items come from the Library of Congress, representing 71,400 pages from their collection, and most of the LOC material is dated during TR's presidency. The other 13,000 items come from 33 institutional and private collections all over the country and span up to the present day. Each week, we describe and publish additional items, and ultimately, we will include all of the LOC collection - and so much more!
For an example of how an item appears at the LOC site and in our digital library, visit these links to one of the featured items, Theodore Roosevelt's diary that contains the entry after his wife Alice died, February 14, 1884.
We are so happy for our friends at the Library of Congress on this monumental accomplishment in bringing TR’s papers to the public, and we hope our work complements theirs in making TR's legacy accessible.