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Pitts: Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will have local influence

On May 6 and 7, the board of directors of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation met in Dickinson to mark the first anniversary of our founding. Among us were Dickinson members Sen. Rich Wardner, Rep. Vicky Steiner, Mike Armstrong...

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Bruce Pitts

On May 6 and 7, the board of directors of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation met in Dickinson to mark the first anniversary of our founding.
Among us were Dickinson members Sen. Rich Wardner, Rep. Vicky Steiner, Mike Armstrong, Vaune Johnson, DSU President Thomas Mitzel and Dr. Thomas Arnold.
When the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum opens its doors, Dickinson will join the few elite cities in the nation to host such an institution. Thanks to a decade of internationally acclaimed work at DSU’s Theodore Roosevelt Center, the library will house TR’s papers in digital form and serve as a home to students and scholars from around the world. It will in no way compete with or supplant Dickinson’s public and academic libraries.
To most of us and to 150,000 visitors each year, the library and museum will be more museum than library - a magnificent testimony to TR’s life and legacy set on beautifully landscaped grounds. Its exhibits will include an exact replica of TR’s Badlands Elkhorn Ranch cabin built using 1884 methods, a working printing press like the one A.T. Packard brought to Medora when he edited the Bad Lands Cow Boy and, we hope, one of the actual 70-ton Bucyrus steam shovels used to dig TR’s Panama Canal. The library and museum will be a new learning center for DSU and city schools, a new park, a home for community activities, an additional economic engine for the community and a rare source of pride for all North Dakotans.
Building a presidential library worthy of one of the “Rushmore Four” is expensive. The building itself will cost about $55 million and its exhibits another $15 million. Many people have expressed concern about our ability to raise this much money and to fund its ongoing operations. Rest assured that we will not construct any component of the facility until we have the money to pay for it.
The museum’s long-term success will be supported by visitor fees and purchases, grants from government agencies and not-for-profit foundations, charitable donations and a $30 million endowment.
This endowment, raised at the same time as construction funding, will support the ongoing work of the library and museum, and DSU’s Theodore Roosevelt Center.
We are crafting a sophisticated fundraising campaign. Although we hope to secure additional state and local government support, and although we will ask the citizens and businesses of our state for further investment, the vast majority of our contributions will come from outside of North Dakota. Theodore Roosevelt does not have his own presidential library and his passionate admirers around the world are highly motivated to see to it that he does.
We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the people of Dickinson for having enabled us to come as far as we have in our first year. We solicited input from numerous groups who were instrumental in persuading us to place the library and museum on the DSU campus. You committed $3 million of your city tax dollars to secure $12 million in state funding. Many individuals and businesses offered time, money and resources to develop initial plans for the project and support the start-up needs.
The board of directors spent our first year working quickly to meet the many deadlines attached to state and city funding. We are now in a position to proceed in an orderly fashion to design and build the library and museum and its grounds, to develop exhibits and programs that will delight visitors and students, and to raise money.
It is vital that the people of Dickinson like having a presidential library and museum in the community. What is in this project for those who live nearby? To that end, we are planning a series of open community forums to listen and to learn what matters to you.
We will meet with interested groups like DSU faculty and staff, librarians, school teachers, child life specialists, rodeo folks and more. We are assembling an advisory board of community leaders to guide us.
With you we will build a presidential library and museum in Dickinson that educates, entertains, enriches and inspires all of us.
Thank you for your input, participation, and support.
Pitts is the chair of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation.

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