Roosevelt and Race: A Digital Exploration of FDR’s Influence on Civil Rights

[This is a FICTIONAL grant application created for educational purposes only. The contents are in no way representative of the named institution.]

Nature of the request

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum requests an NEH Digital Projects for the Public Discovery Grant in the amount of $18,862 to support the initial exploratory phase of Roosevelt and Race: A Digital Exploration of FDR’s Influence on Civil Rights, a project that will incorporate supplementary mobile resources related to the events of African American history during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency into the visitor experience at the Museum.  This project, when implemented, will give visitors the opportunity to curate their own learning experience, and position archival objects and resources within a more functional and cohesive context than has heretofore been possible at the Museum.  This will enable visitors to gain a greater understanding of President Franklin and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s complicated relationships with African Americans and civil rights while fostering a productive and thoughtful dialogue on the far-reaching implications of those relationships on the African American community and American history.  Roosevelt and Race will utilize the various digitized resources held by the FDR Library and Museum as well as the National Archives, which oversees the FDR Library and the thirteen other Presidential Libraries across the country.  These resources, which pertain not just to Franklin Roosevelt but also to his progressive and civic-minded wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, consist of letters, memos, governmental records, petitions, photographs, telegrams, books, articles, and audio/video records, and will be incorporated into an interactive mobile database that will replace and/or complement the educational displays currently exhibited in the Museum’s physical space, where appropriate. This project builds upon the learning opportunities of the physical exhibits while offering new and innovative ways to engagingly place these resources and materials into a context that more clearly acknowledges the historical implications of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency regarding civil rights and race relations, and the essential truth that African American history is American history.

This project will call upon the assistance, knowledge, and skills of the FDR Library and National Archives professionals responsible for cataloging and digitizing its archival resources, humanities scholars working in the field of FDR-era history, and experts familiar with the production of interactive digital and mobile public humanities resources.  Once assembled, these experts will collaborate in the pursuit of several goals:

  1. To gather, assess, and catalog relevant digital resources held by the Museum and National Archives, focusing on their viability for use within this type of project;
  2. To sponsor a series of meetings that will bring together Museum staff, digital humanities professionals, technology experts, and Roosevelt scholars to discuss the ways that the Museum’s digitized holdings could be used to create a digital mobile resource that interprets the Roosevelt presidency’s impact on civil rights in a way that reflects the analyses of modern humanities scholars more comprehensively than is being accomplished by current exhibits;
  3. To examine the efforts of other institutions attempting to accomplish similar goals, and to make connections with museums and other cultural institutions that may be interested in utilizing the project’s resources to establish related endeavors at their own sites;
  4. To determine the technical skills and resources needed and available to produce an interactive mobile database that incorporates digitized archival records into a resource that will engage and educate users in a way not possible in the current physical exhibits;
  5. To establish creative and practical solutions that will encourage interaction with the project and incorporate options to provide feedback and critique;
  6. To provide the FDR Presidential Library and Museum with relevant and useful feedback and knowledge that will encourage and facilitate the integration of the project’s most popular features into future digital and physical exhibits at the Museum.
  7. To evaluate the feedback on the project provided by members of the African American community and incorporate viable suggestions into future versions.

Upon achievement of these goals, the project team will have produced the design for an interactive mobile resource that reflects the educational themes and objectives of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum as well as contemporary scholarly opinions regarding FDR and civil rights legislation. These efforts will also address the limitations of the static physical exhibits on display.  The results of the grant will include wireframes, information regarding costs, technology requirements and specifications, and a basic plan for implementing a preliminary version of the digital project in a trial capacity, which will include strategies to seek user feedback that will be considered in the design of the final project.  This project builds upon the current efforts and viewpoints of the Library and Museum and scholars of the era to encourage deeper consideration of the far-reaching implications of President Roosevelt’s record on civil rights and race relations, while reflecting advancements in modern digital technology and the resulting capacity to address the limitations of stationary physical museum exhibits.

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