Theodore Roosevelt Center creating first comprehensive digital presidential library

May 27, 2014

“I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.” This quote by Theodore Roosevelt emphasizes just how fitting it is that his presidential library located right here in North Dakota.

Theodore Roosevelt's journal entry upon the death of his first wife, Alice.

Theodore Roosevelt’s journal entry upon the death of his first wife, Alice.

The Theodore Roosevelt Center (TRC), housed at Dickinson State University, is dedicated to the goal of creating the first comprehensive digital presidential library in the nation. The collection contains documents and artifacts from throughout the course of Theodore Roosevelt’s life including photos, political cartoons, letters, speeches, and even some audio and video recordings. All these items have been converted to high-quality digital files and are available to anyone at TheodoreRooseveltCenter.org.

The original documents and artifacts are spread across the country including at the Library of Congress, Harvard University and the National Park Service. By creating partnerships with these organizations and others, the TRC is able to create a central resource that allows more people than ever before to access this information and knits together far-flung artifacts to provide the opportunity to view the documents in chronological order for the first time.

“It’s essentially an electronic miracle, and it not only means we are going to achieve our goal of the first comprehensive electronic national presidential library here in Dickinson, North Dakota – a monument to this university and to the state system – and help change the way that scholarship is done,” said Clay Jenkinson, Theodore Roosevelt Humanities Scholar, during the April State Board of Higher Education meeting.

So far, there are 21,000 items available to view in the collection, up from 5,000 processed documents in 2011. Processing these files involves not only converting them to a high-quality digital format, but also making them searchable by using metadata. There are over a million files currently in the TRC archive, and the staff is determined to process all of them to create the comprehensive digital collection.

A postcard to Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt on Memorial Day.

A postcard to Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt on Memorial Day.

During the 2013 legislative session, the North Dakota Legislature rewarded the center’s good work by issuing a challenge to TRC to develop and build a ‘Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.’ And, according to Jenkinson, they’re up to that challenge. The agreement with the Legislature states that if TRC is able to raise $3 million, the state will match up to $12 million to create a free-standing facility in Dickinson. A firm has been hired to conduct the planning process, and fundraising is well under way.

“Our plan is to produce a smart, intelligent, thoughtful, spirited…facility, and to move forward decade by decade as we become more important in the national presidential arena,” said Jenkinson.

To keep updated on their progress and see all the files currently available, visit TheodoreRooseveltCenter.org.