The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is America’s first presidential library—and the only one used by a sitting president. Contemplating retirement after a second term, FDR sought to place his papers in a research facility for the benefit of the public. But no archive would accept his entire collection of records documenting his presidency and his lifetime in public service. So Roosevelt decided to build his own.
From the start the Library had a Museum to display FDR’s vast collections of naval and maritime art, ship models, and other treasures. By the time the Library and Museum opened in 1941, war was raging in Europe and Roosevelt has been elected to an unprecedented third term as president. In the face of fascism, public access to the records of a presidency was a beacon of intellectual freedom in an otherwise dark world.
Roosevelt personally directed the design and construction of the Library, which was built on the Roosevelt family estate with private donations. At the dedication FDR donated the building and its holdings to the National Archives, which administers it today. FDR’s model for his library has been followed by every president since.
Today through its Archives, Museum, and education programs for students and the general public, the Roosevelt Presidential Library helps people, in FDR’s words, “learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future.”
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