Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The United States should nominate the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project for the Memory of the World Register

UNESCO established its Memory of the World Program in 1992. In doing so it recognized that much of the world's documentary heritage was in peril. The program seeks to facilitate the preservation of digital heritage, to make it accessible to all, and to increase awareness of significant documentary heritage. In this latter respect, UNESCO's Memory of the World Register was created to list documentary heritage of world significance and outstanding universal value.

Adding the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project to the Register would accomplish several things. First and foremost, it would increase the world's awareness of the rich heritage we possess in the archive relating to this remarkable woman. Americans know of Mrs. Roosevelt as the first lady during the Great Depression and World War II who served as the eyes and ears for her disabled husband, and as the foremost civil rights advocate of her time. The archive includes a rich source of information on that important time, a time in which the United States played a major role in world history. However, Mrs. Roosevelt was much more, perhaps the most famous woman in the world in her later life, she worked tirelessly to relieve poverty and promote human rights globally.

It is especially appropriate that UNESCO recognize the importance of Eleanor Roosevelt's contributions because she was a great supporter of the United Nations and of UNESCO. She served on the first delegation of the United States to the United Nations and chaired the commission that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Recognition of the importance of this archive by UNESCO should help maintain the support that has been so critical to the gathering, maintenance and curation of this collection of written and recorded materials.

The inclusion of this project may also serve as a demonstration project within the Memory of the World Register of how such an archive can be protected while its content is being made more available to the public and while efforts are made to bring attention to the content and teach from its riches.
The project includes papers documenting Eleanor Roosevelt’s life and political career, comprising millions of pages of records stored in libraries and archives in all fifty states, and throughout the world, The Eleanor Roosevelt Project selects the material that most genuinely reflects her work and makes it available to everyone through the digital and print publication of five volumes that reproduce her most historically significant writings, and provides readers with all the background information they need to understand and interpret it for themselves.
The project efforts bore fruit in three highly-used, Web-based projects: an electronic “mini-edition” of ER’s correspondence with John F. Kennedy during the election of 1960; a Web curriculum entitled “Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt” that the National Park Service uses to interpret the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site at Val-Kill; and the online publication of all 8,112 My Day columns that ER wrote in her 26 years as a nationally syndicated columnist. These sites (www.gwu.edu/~erpapers) receive roughly 1.2 million hits a year.
Since launching Eleanor Roosevelt on the Web, the project focus expanded to take greater account of the significant audio-visual record that ER left behind and for which the Internet furnishes an ideal means of communication. Few people know that in the aftermath of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, ER addressed the nation before her husband did—an event that the project highlights in a film produced for students, teachers, and the general public.

Preview: Eleanor Roosevelt's Use of Media

CSPAN has produced two long videos on Eleanor Roosevelt and the archives containing her papers at George Washington University. Click on the title below to transfer to CSPAN where you can play the corresponding streaming video.

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Media
November 13, 2010

C‑SPAN visited the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project at George Washington University to learn about the longest serving First Lady. Mrs. Roosevelt used newspaper columns, radio, speaking tours, books, and television to communicate her ideas.
American Artifacts: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Politics
Sunday, December 26, 2010
C‑SPAN visited George Washington University’s Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project to learn more about the politics, controversies, and media savvy of the former First Lady from Project Director Allida Black. Mrs. Roosevelt, First Lady from 1933-1945, published 8,000 columns, 580 articles, 27 books, 100,000 letters, 1000 speeches, and appeared on 300 radio and television shows.

John Daly
The ideas presented in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Americans for UNESCO. 

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