The TR Presidential Library will be a presidential archive, museum, convening space, and research center dedicated to one of the most significant figures in U.S. history.
Presidential papers and artifacts have been preserved in Presidential Libraries since the 1930s, when the United States government took responsibility to make them available to the American people. In Theodore Roosevelt’s time, such papers were considered the President’s personal property. As a result, his letters, diaries, photographs, and other media are scattered across the globe. It has been difficult, if not impossible, for scholars and citizens to immerse themselves in the whole Roosevelt.
Over the past decade the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University in western North Dakota has pursued the bold mission of digitizing and archiving all of TR’s letters, diaries, photographs, political cartoons, audio and video recordings, and other media. The digital library at www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org now contains nearly 40,000 Roosevelt items, freely available and fully searchable on any Internet-capable device. It is the largest collection of primary source materials - and growing.
From Digital to Physical
The success of the Theodore Roosevelt Center’s work inspired the North Dakota State Legislature during its 2013 session to appropriate $12 million for the construction of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. The appropriation required that an additional $3 million be raised from non-state sources. In June 2014, the city of Dickinson, North Dakota, committed funds to meet the challenge. An Interpretive Master Plan was prepared by Hilferty & Associates of Ohio, and a new independent nonprofit organization, the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation (TRPLF), was formed to bring the project to fruition.
The TRPLF is now in the process of designing the Library, the 27-acre site in Dickinson, and the exhibits through which it will provide rare insight into Roosevelt’s life, character, and legacy. The Presidential Library will be more than a building or a collection of buildings. The campus will include a convening center and research facility, a museum, and landscaping that invites the visitor into the out-of-doors. It will also feature an authentic re-creation of the Elkhorn Ranch cabin.
The TRPLF has retained M. A. Mortenson Company to oversee all elements of design and construction. The Foundation is undertaking a national capital campaign with a preliminary fund-raising goal of $85 million.
Designing the Building
In early 2016, JLG Architects of Dickinson created conceptual drawings to inspire the imagination and to illustrate the potential of the site. These drawings are merely conceptual and the finished building is likely to look significantly different. However, the drawings signal the possibilities for designing a facility that is unique and interesting in its own right, in addition to the exhibits inside and the natural environment around it.
JLG Architects have been chosen as the Architect of Record, and will work closely with landscape architect and museum design firms to develop an overall plan for the buildings, grounds, and landscaping of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.
Rise to the Presidency
"I rose like a rocket," Roosevelt proclaimed about his political career. As a Presidential Library, the facility will feature Roosevelt's actions as President and his enduring influence on American life.
Outdoors and Indoors
Chapter IX of Roosevelt's Autobiography, quoted above, calls for an appreciation of both nature and the life of the mind. The Presidential Library will invite visitors to explore both the natural world and the world of study and scholarship Roosevelt so valued.
As Much Westerner as Easterner
Western North Dakota was Roosevelt's second home. Many of the experiences he relished describing to others, in print and in person, happened during his ranching days in 1883 to 1887. The Presidential Library will tell these stories and investigate how his western experiences influenced his character, commitments, and success.