Frequently Asked Questions

About the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library


Why Dickinson, North Dakota?

Theodore Roosevelt went to the Dakota Territory in 1883 to kill a bison before the species was extinct (he later, of course, helped to save the species from extinction). He returned the next year, grief-stricken after losing both his wife and mother on Valentine’s Day, 1884. Over the next few years, he immersed himself in the Little Missouri River badlands as a rancher, thief-catcher, citizen, and writer. He transformed himself. He later wrote, “I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota."

The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library is being built in Dickinson, North Dakota, a town of 30,000 just a half-hour drive from Roosevelt's beloved badlands. Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the popular old-west town of Medora are nearby. Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills of South Dakota are four hours away.

TR was both an easterner and our first western President. This is Roosevelt Country, and we look forward to sharing it with the world through his iconic lenses. 


Why doesn’t Theodore Roosevelt already have a presidential library?

Not all American presidents have presidential libraries. In fact, only presidents since Herbert Hoover have presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. As of 2016, there are 13 such libraries. Several other, independent presidential libraries exist, most notably the Jefferson library at Monticello and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

As one of the best-loved and best-regarded presidents in American history, Theodore Roosevelt certainly deserves a national presidential library.


What is the relationship between the Theodore Roosevelt Center and the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library?

The vision for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library started with the work of the Theodore Roosevelt Center. The Center’s mission is to digitize all that represents TR: correspondence, diaries, photographs, political cartoons, films, audio clips, and other media. The digitization of all things Roosevelt is vital to the mission of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.


How long will it take to complete the digitization of the Roosevelt papers?

This is a monumental project. The work of the Theodore Roosevelt Center is ongoing, and depends largely on funding. To date, approximately 165,000 documents have been digitized, with nearly 40,000 processed and available online. With current resources and staffing levels, the project will take at least a decade to complete, and perhaps longer.


Where will the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library be built?

The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will be built at the northwest corner of Dickinson State University in Dickinson, North Dakota. The 27-acre parcel will be wonderfully landscaped and feature unique architecture with the stature of other presidential libraries.


Why was this site chosen?

When plans for a facility of this magnitude take place, there are many things to take into consideration. The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation weighed many factors: visibility from and access to Interstate-94; the “feel” of Roosevelt and the badlands; and community concerns and preferences. While there were advantages to all locations considered, the TRPLF ultimately chose one of the best protected locations in the city of Dickinson, on the former rodeo grounds at Dickinson State University. It was the decided will of the people of Dickinson that the facility be built in town, at a location easily accessible in all seasons.


Why do we need yet another library in Dickinson?

Presidential Libraries are not libraries in the usual sense. They are archives and museums, bringing together in one place the documents and artifacts of a President and his administration, and presenting them to the public for study and discussion. For most visitors, the Presidential Library is more museum than library. Through traditional and technologically-enhanced exhibits, visitors explore the life and legacy of an American President.


What happens at a Presidential Library?

Typically, a presidential library consists of two “wings.” One is the presidential papers archive, where documents associated with that president are stored, cataloged, and interpreted. The other is a public museum that examines the life and times of the president in question, with a particular focus on his (or her) presidency.

The presidential archive is the reason these national libraries exist, and that is why they are called presidential libraries rather than presidential museums. The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library archive will be mostly electronic, since the physical Roosevelt papers have long since been deposited with institutions like the Library of Congress. The work that archivists do is important, and visitors to the Presidential Library will be able to learn about and benefit from it.

The museum will explore Roosevelt’s entire life—using physical objects, framed documents, quotations, films, touch-screen kiosks, timelines, and more. The Presidential Library will also host events—lectures, symposia, seminars, teacher institutes, and other public activities.


What is the community and economic impact?

Schools in the city and the region will have a new center of learning. The community will have a new park, a hub for activities, and an additional economic engine. The TRPL will be a rare source of pride for all North Dakotans.

The Presidential Library will be a destination attraction for regional, national, and international travelers. The estimated 100,000 visitors expected to be drawn to Dickinson every year include Presidential Library and Roosevelt admirers, family groups, tourists, and bus tours. Local payroll is projected to be more than $2 million annually.


Why start by reconstructing Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch cabin?

Every presidential library re-creates a space important to that president. Often, this is the Oval Office in the White House. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in southern California features Air Force One in a beautiful atrium. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, Illinois, exhibits Lincoln’s law office (somewhat disrupted by his rambunctious children!).

The TRPLF has decided to rebuild Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch cabin as the first structure on the Presidential Library campus because it is eager to demonstrate how it intends to interpret Roosevelt’s life. The Board believes that a faithful reproduction of Roosevelt’s principal headquarters in western North Dakota spurs a better understanding of the 26th President of the United States.

The cabin will be built, so far as building codes permit, using 1884-1885 techniques. From hand-adzing the cottonwood logs to erecting the 30x60-foot cabin using human and animal muscle, both the internal combustion engine and power equipment will be avoided to the maximum extent possible. The goal is to make the cabin authentic, not only to exhibit it as it must have looked when TR and his hired men finished it in the spring of 1885, but to let it symbolize the TRPLF’s commitment to historical rigor and accuracy in everything it does at the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.


What story will be told?

Theodore Roosevelt’s life outside the presidency is as interesting as his presidential years. The Presidential Library will tell the story of his asthmatic childhood, his early political fights in New York City, his western adventures, his exploits during the Spanish-American War, the building of the Panama Canal, his conservation actions and legacy, the worldwide adventures of his life after the presidency, and more.


What can the visitor expect?

In the reconstructed Elkhorn Ranch cabin, which will be built using 1884 methods, the visitor will feel like Theodore Roosevelt may have just walked out to check the cattle and will return at any moment. Similarly, in the reading room, perhaps TR has been called away by his wife Edith to discuss the guest list for dinner or to arbitrate some scrape the children have gotten into, but his open book awaits his return.

The visitor experience will be engaging, entertaining, challenging, and inspiring for Presidential Library patrons at all levels. Live interpreters will make history relevant to visitors’ lives. Exhibits will include cutting-edge presentations alongside traditional displays of authentic and period artifacts.


Will the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library host the annual Theodore Roosevelt Symposium?

Yes. The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will be designed as a research and study center, a museum, an archive, and a convening center. The planned auditorium at the TRPL will offer the latest technology for presentations and will seat approximately 300 people. This is the ideal size for the annual Theodore Roosevelt public humanities symposia initiated by the Theodore Roosevelt Center. The facility will feature every technology that deepens and enriches one’s exploration of the life and times of Theodore Roosevelt.


Will conferences unrelated to Roosevelt be allowed in the auditorium?

Yes. This is a public facility and one that will be accessible to the people of Dickinson and the larger region. The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation will work to establish guidelines for the appropriate use of this space. Its goal is to make this world-class facility a welcoming venue for the citizens of North Dakota and beyond.


How many people do you expect to visit the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library per year?

Dickinson, North Dakota, is located along Interstate-94, a thoroughfare for travelers headed across North Dakota to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) as well as points west and south, including Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore. Consultants for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation have evaluated numerous considerations, including visitation at TRNP, Mount Rushmore, the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck, and visitation to other presidential libraries. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people will visit the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library each year.


When will the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library open?

The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation will begin construction of the presidential library building in October 2018 and open its doors in 2020.


How much will it cost?

The first phase of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, which will be completed in 2020, will cost at least $14 million in accord with a mandate of the North Dakota State Legislature. The comprehensive vision for the project includes a $60 million facility and a $40 million endowment to secure long-term sustainability.