Preserving Roosevelt’s Legacy: Theodore Roosevelt Center Sweeps the Region for TR Artifacts

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The Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University is conducting a sweep of North Dakota and eastern Montana to locate and preserve Roosevelt-related photographs, documents, and artifacts.

The Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University is conducting a sweep of North Dakota and eastern Montana to locate and preserve Roosevelt-related photographs, documents, and artifacts.

The Theodore Roosevelt Center, now five years old, is digitizing all of Roosevelt’s papers—most of which are preserved at Harvard University, the Library of Congress, and the National Park Service.

“Our goal is to become a national digital Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library,” says Clay Jenkinson, the TR scholar at Dickinson State University. “We believe that a large number of Roosevelt items exist in private hands and community museums and archives throughout this region. We aren’t asking to obtain those materials, but only to have the opportunity to photograph or scan them and to include them in our collections.”

Already the Roosevelt Center has made contact with a couple in Wishek, ND, who have an extensive Roosevelt collection; with a hotel in Watford City where the lobby and hallways serve as an informal TR museum; and with a couple in Williston who have donated a period fur coat to the TR Center. The descendants of badlands cowboy Harry Roberts are making their private photograph collection available for scanning.

“People are beginning to come forward to tell us about their private collections,” Jenkinson said. These include stirrups, saddles, homestead documents, snapshots of relatives meeting Roosevelt on his many trips to North Dakota, copies of old magazines, and much more.

The Roosevelt Center is currently housed in Stoxen Library on the campus of Dickinson State University. “Naturally, we are interested in obtaining items which we can exhibit for visitors to see,” said Sharon Kilzer, project manager of the TR Center. “But we want everyone to know that we are just as interested in digitizing and helping preserve private family collections. In other words, we won’t try to talk you into giving us your family treasures. But we’ll bring our scanner!”

One of the purposes of the TR “sweep” is to learn more about Roosevelt’s travels in North Dakota and eastern Montana, to “knit together” TR’s North Dakota footprint, in the words of Clay Jenkinson. “People think his ND arena was the badlands, and they are certainly right up to a point. But we want to show that Roosevelt’s footprint was important throughout North Dakota, such as at Chase and Stump Lakes National Wildlife Refuges, at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve, and in Fargo, where he famously said in 1910 that he would never have been president were it not for his time in North Dakota.”

People who have TR items, or know of others who do, are encouraged to contact the Theodore Roosevelt Center at 701-483-2814.

The project will continue through the year. A website exhibit will be created of the collected materials at http://www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org.

About Theodore Roosevelt Center: The mission of the Theodore Roosevelt Center is to raise the profile of Theodore Roosevelt and to preserve the legacy of America’s 26th president through events, publications, and the creation of a comprehensive digital presidential library that is freely accessible worldwide via the internet. The Center has undertaken the monumental task of creating a presidential digital library that will serve as a repository for all Roosevelt-related documents, photographs, and ephemera, providing instant access via the internet in a well-organized, comprehensible manner. The Center also hosts an annual Theodore Roosevelt Symposium as well as special Roosevelt-related events, promotes Roosevelt scholarship, and offers student internships. Visit http://www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org.

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Sharon Kilzer

Beth Schatz Kaylor
Agency MABU
(701) 250-0728
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