Happy 130th Birthday, FDR!

The 1934 White House Birthday Party had a “Caesarian” theme, with guests wearing togas and centurion costumes.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, was born on this day in Hyde Park, New York in 1882, so today we are celebrating his 130th birthday. Roosevelt himself seems to be a big fan of Birthdays. Members of his “Cuff Link Gang”, a group of close associates, usually gathered for themed meetings around FDR’s birthday. And later on, he established the National Committee for Birthday Balls that sponsored charity parties across the nation. Even though the Birthday Balls ended in 1945 with the death of President Roosevelt, both of their legacies live on in the March of Dimes, which helped to eradicate polio and continues raising funds for medical research and works to improve the health of mothers and babies.

Historic view of FDR Library archival stacks, featuring the original document boxes. FDR’s carefully arranged shelving remains in place in some areas of the Library today.

President Roosevelt happened to be an avid collector – from stuffed birds and stamps to prints and books. During his 12 years in the office, many presidential gifts and other memorabilia joined his personal collections. When FDR donated his personal and presidential papers to the government in 1939, it formally started the Presidential Library System. At the same time, Roosevelt pledged part of his estate at Hyde Park, New York to the United States, and his friends formed a non-profit corporation to raise funds for the construction of the library and museum building. The National Archives took custody of his papers and other historical materials and to began administering his library.

University Products' Archival Quality Clamshell Boxes
Because the President needed a wheelchair for daily mobility, the library’s archival shelving had to be spacious enough to accommodate it. Roosevelt personally designed the document storage boxes initially used to house his papers. These Clamshell Boxes allowed his own lap-top style reading while in the storage areas and acted as a sort of paper tray. For preservation purposes, these boxes have since been replaced with newer, acid-free archival containers, but FDR’s original shelving remains in place in many parts of the Library storage areas.

FDR amassed an enormous number of political and personal artifacts, including ephemera and souvenirs from his multiple election campaigns. The Center for New Deal Studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago holds nearly 1,500 artifacts from the Remembering FDR memorabilia collection, on loan from Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Most of it comes from Joseph M. Jacobs, a Chicago labor lawyer, who managed to accumulate the largest private compilation of FDR’s paraphernalia.

More interesting Places and Websites to visit:
FDR Day By Day

Presidential Library and Museum

FDR Presidential Library & Museum on Flickr
Roosevelt Campobello International Park

World Famous Tapestry Comes Alive

The Bayeux Tapestry, is probably one of the most famous pieces of embroidered cloth (yes, despite it’s name it’s not really a tapestry) in the world. This massive (nearly 230 ft) depiction of the Norman conquest of England which was first mentioned in 1476, has survived multiple invasions, wars, revolutions and finally, after nearly being taken away by the Nazis during the WWII, was returned to it’s home town of Bayeux in 1945, where it is still exhibited at Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux. Amazingly, the Tapestry has survived over nine centuries practically unscathed!

The Tapestry serves as a tremendously important historical document, even though it was commissioned by the House of Normandy, and presents a rather one-sided view of the event. In 2007 it was added to the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

The artifact is embroidered in wool yarn on linen, which is why it is not technically a tapestry (in which the design is woven into the cloth). It has been patched in numerous places and some of the embroidery (especially in the final scene) has been reworked, but we can be certain that it maintained much of its original appearance seeing that it compares closely with a careful drawing by Antoine Benoît made in 1730. It has quite a few replicas and has inspired some pretty impressive imitations around the world including the amazing needle lace 30ft “table runner” in the Textile Collection of the National Museum of American History.

The real thing, however, is still in the little French town of Bayeux, where it is housed in a long glassed vault with a door. In case of fire, gas cylinders will trigger automatic extinguishers. The vault is also equipped with an air conditioning system to preserve the embroidery. But if you are not planing to visit Normandy any time soon, you can see the The Bayeux Tapestry “come alive” in this wonderful animation:

New How-To Video on Mount Making

University Products is adding instructional videos to its www.universityproducts.com website, and the first video is now available. The new series of videos will showcase the company’s line of tools and equipment in operation, as well as demonstrating materials and offering assembly instructions.

The video series are designed to provide customers with an understanding of how tools and equipment are used, and the potential applications for products that will save time and money, and improve collections care.

The debut video highlights the creation of Ethafoam® Cavity Mounts for 3-dimensional objects. This instructional video demonstrates mount making tools including the Ethafoam® Knife/Saw, Benchmark® Foam Knives, and the Quick-Cut Hot Knife in use.  In addition, a variety of mount making materials including Ethafoam, Artifact Wrap, and Polyester Batting are included in the demonstration.

In the video, Ethafoam is cut to size to accommodate a specific object.  A cavity is then created in the Ethafoam using a variety of cutting tools and contour gauge for measuring the depth of the cavity.  Finally, appropriate padding and lining materials are added to create the perfect storage mount.

Future videos will include the use of Fosshape for creating lightweight forms for costume display, the Colibri Book Covering System in use, a demonstration of the University Products’ new Polyester Spot Welder and dozens of others.

We want to make you a star!  Share your video of University Products’ tools or equipment in use in a professional library, archives, or museum setting and you could receive up to $100 in free supplies for your organization.  Email mpfoster@universityproducts.com for details.

Not So Ephemeral Library

Prelinger Library
Prelinger Library, photo courtesy of meetar on Flickr

{ Ephemera (singular: ephemeron) is any transitory written or printed matter not meant to be retained or preserved. The word derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day.}


The Prelinger Library
is an independent research library located in San Francisco’s South-of-Market neighborhood. It is open to anyone for research, reading, inspiration, and reuse.

Founded in 2004 by Megan Prelinger and Rick Prelinger, the library is a vast collection of the most fragile of artifacts – 19th and 20th century historical ephemera, periodicals, maps, and books. Never intended for longevity, these, mostly image-heavy pieces of history are carefully picked and preserved for free perusal, copying, and in many cases – scanned and available for downloading.

The Library is truly a local community project, consisting of donated materials, being sustained with help of volunteers and collaborating with local artists, crafters, writers, and activists.

By definition, ephemera is not a long-lasting media, which makes it much harder to preserve. However, proper handling and storage techniques can make a world of difference and allow you to enjoy collectible (rare, interesting or sentimental) ephemera pieces for a very long time. As with any artifact, the less direct handling – the better. Cotton gloves should be used to avoid transfer of harmful fingerprints. Clear archival quality enclosures will keep the fragile paper safe from ripping and environmental dangers, such as humidity, dust and dirt. And last but not least, archival quality acid-free boxes or albums will protect your treasures for long-term storage. University Products’ website has an entire section dedicated exclusively to products designed to protect your Ephemera collection.