Call to Action: Raising Awareness of Theodore Roosevelt Island

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Arts, Design and Social Sciences

Abstract

When Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919, memorial communities drafted plans for several monumental tributes. The most controversial was the national memorial at Washington D.C.'s tidal basin. This sacred space occupied the last vacant cardinal point on the national mall and completed the cross-shaped pattern originally designed for Washington. It took city planners and Congress years of deliberation to determine what should be erected there. Expectations ran high for a Roosevelt memorial, but in 1926 legislators rejected the proposal. Compared with other American icons with no shrine of their own, Roosevelt's beatification seemed hasty. Congress instead voted to construct the Thomas Jefferson memorial which occupies the tidal basin today. The story of Theodore Roosevelt Island begins here, where the absence of a memorial on the national mall prompted the search for alternatives.

The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association (TRA) purchased Analostan Island in 1931 as the location for a national memorial. West of the Lincoln Memorial the island straddles the Potomac River. The TRA donated the island to the national government and renamed it Theodore Roosevelt Island. Renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed the island as primeval forest to celebrate Roosevelt's legacy as a conservationist and ornithologist, but after World War II the capital's engineers alleviated city traffic by building a four-lane highway across the island. The road destroyed Olmsted's vision of a nature reserve and forced the TRA to re-conceptualize Roosevelt's legacy. They successfully lobbied Congress to construct a memorial plaza and 17-foot statue of Roosevelt, and in 1967 President Lyndon Johnson dedicated the monument, emphasizing Roosevelt as progressive who left "a mark upon American life that will endure as long as America has pride in itself, and pride in its purpose."

Today, most people observe the island from their car as they cross the bridge. The memorial plaza attracts few visitors, despite the island's proximity to the national mall. Few people know the island's place in Washington's history or the way it has influenced Roosevelt's public memory. This project will produce a documentary on the history of the island as a memorial to Roosevelt to invigorate public engagement. The documentary will begin with an examination of the TRA's plan to erect a memorial at the tidal basin site and their ultimate failure to do so. It will include a short history of Theodore Roosevelt Island prior to the TRA's purchase in 1931 before exploring Frederick Law Olmsted's landscape design for a conservationist memorial and the construction of the 1967 monument. It will conclude with the NPS plans for revitalization on the island and the forthcoming centenary of Roosevelt's death and 50th anniversary of the memorial's dedication. Dr. Michael Patrick Cullinane will craft the script in collaboration with Dr. Clay Jenkinson (TR Center at Dickinson State University) and ThunderShot Studios (Washington, D.C.). The film will feature distinguished academics, current members of the TRA, Roosevelt family members, National Park rangers, and local activists or residents. At the heart of the documentary is Dr. Cullinane's research on Roosevelt's public memory.

This project will actively disseminate AHRC funded research in innovative ways and has the support of non-academic partners who independently identified a need to revivify public interest in the memorial island. The film will be released as a DVD and broadcast in multiple television markets.

Planned Impact

This project is carefully designed to ensure the widest possible audience benefit. This proposal exceeds the scope for pathways to impact in Dr. Cullinane's original AHRC research proposal and creatively engages with an unforeseen call to action from project partners. It approaches impact in three ways: 1) through televised broadcasts of the documentary; 2) targeted distribution and sale of DVDs; and 3) by public screenings for non-academic user communities.

The production team and project partners have considerable experience pitching digital media to television broadcasters. The initial phase of the project will include writing a broadcast proposal and identifying suitable media outlets. The project will rely, in part, on Dr. Jenkinson's experience producing films that have aired in local and mid-western television markets. Equally, it will rely on the experience of ThunderShot studios who work with regional and national television broadcasters. As a matter of priority, proposals will be made to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), WETA-TV (PBS Washington, D.C.), the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Pivot TV, Discovery History (UK), and the BBC.

The project will also produce a limited number of DVDs (circa 3,000) for impact activities and commercialization. 1,000 copies will be gifted to the TRA for their support of the project and they have signaled their intentions to use the DVDs as an incentive for membership and in upcoming fundraising drives. The DVD also represents the realization of the TRA's efforts to raise awareness of the Theodore Roosevelt Island and Theodore Roosevelt's legacy. 500 copies will gifted to the FoTRI along the same basis and for the same purpose. The National Park Service will receive 1,000 gratis copies for their gift shops at sites with connections to Theodore Roosevelt and for use in educational programmes operated in the vicinity of these sites. 250 DVDs will be donated to gift shops at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, Sagamore Hill in New York, and the Roosevelt Birthplace in New York. 250 DVDs will be made available for sale from online retailers. The host organization and academic partners will receive a number of copies to use for publicity and further dissemination. Should demand for the documentary exceed supply, proceeds will be used to produce additional copies.

As part of the dissemination programme, the project has commitments from partners and other groups to host public screenings of the documentary. The TRA and FoTRI will host screening events, as will the Library of Congress and British Library. These screenings are organized to further the impact of the research. The events for the TRA and FoTRI will be designed to increase membership in the organizations and assist them to realize core objectives, most importantly the revitalization of TR Island. At these screenings, audiences will be surveyed to understand the impact the research and film had on viewers. The events at the Library of Congress and British Library will be open to the general public. These events have two purposes: 1) to disseminate the film and capture user feedback through surveys; 2) to exchange knowledge with academic and non-academic communities on transforming research into a creative format capable of broad reach. Dr. Jenkinson has already informally secured commitment from the Library of Congress, and Dr. Cullinane has similar commitment from the British Library. The project team, including partners, will be responsible for measuring the impact. Impact will be quantitatively measured by visitor traffic to Theodore Roosevelt Island, TRA membership and fundraising figures, FoTRI membership and fundraising figures, broadcast markets, broadcast ratings, and sales figures of DVDs. Qualitative measurements will derive from testimonial evidence from the NPS, FoTRI, the TRA, and surveys collected at screenings.

Publications

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Title Oral Histories (Theodore Roosevelt Island) 
Description Interviews of 13 individuals with expertise or interest in Theodore Roosevelt Island. The interviews were conducted in Fairfax, Virginia (USA) in February 2017. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The interviews are part of the documentary project. The recordings will be donated to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library after the documentary is produced. 
 
Description The project's primary research comes by way of 13 interviews of experts on Theodore Roosevelt Island. The remainder of the research was conducted in a previous award. The final product of the research is a 60 minute documentary on the history of Theodore Roosevelt Island.
Exploitation Route The creation of a documentary from a humanities research project will be of use to other academics interested in disseminating research in such a manner.
Sectors Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description The documentary project is designed to produce a number of non-academic impacts. Because the documentary is still unfinished, it the project has yet to deliver on all of these. But, working with the non-academic partners, we have identified how the documentary will be used to produce these impacts. The scheduled impact activities include: 1) economic and business impact on ThunderShot studios: the documentary has influenced the business plans of ThunderShot Studios, developing the studio's repertoire into Humanities productions. It has also changed the studio's practices in collaboration with partners; 2) supporting the mission of the United States Park Service by creating stewards for the parks; 3) supporting the mission of the Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Island by producing publicity materials and raising awareness of Theodore Roosevelt Island; 4) supporting the mission of the Theodore Roosevelt Association by raising awareness of TR Island. Additional impacts are envisioned to build membership in the NPS, FoTRI, and TRA.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

 
Description Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Island 
Organisation Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Island
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The FoTRI work in partnership with the NPS to protect and preserve the living memorial that is TR Island and enhance the public's use and enjoyment of the island as a natural park. The FoTRI also organized to "enhance the visitor experience through existing and expanded educational and interpretative opportunities." The documentary helps meet these core goals.
Collaborator Contribution The FoTRI will make a benefit-in-kind contribution, providing 2 trustees for a studio interviews and will attend the advisory board meetings. As well, the FoTRI will screen the film at an event in Washington, D.C. to further disseminate the research.
Impact Pending - Documentary on TR Island (multi-disciplinary: history, art, popular culture, literature, and American studies).
Start Year 2017
 
Description National Park Service (NPS) 
Organisation US National Park Service
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The proposed documentary aligns with the goals of the GWMP and NPS to raise awareness of the site and construct a compelling narrative about the island. The project will donate all excess footage to the NPS to help further this cause, and to aid it in any educational activities they regularly take on. Additionally, the documentary represents an answer to the NPS centennial initiative which "invites the world to discover the meaning of national parks to their lives and inspires people to both experience and become devoted to these special places" during the centennial year of the Park Service (2016).
Collaborator Contribution The NPS/GWMP will make a benefit-in-kind contribution to the documentary by donating the time of 2 Park Rangers to be interviewed on the history of the island, and will donate time to attend the three advisory board meetings.
Impact Pending - Documentary on TR Island (multi-disciplinary: history, art, popular culture, literature, and American studies).
Start Year 2017
 
Description TR Island Documentary 
Organisation Dickinson College
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are collectively working on a documentary about Theodore Roosevelt Island to raise awareness of the site and restore elements of the memorial there.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are providing support for documentary
Impact Impact not yet realized
Start Year 2014
 
Description TR Island Documentary 
Organisation Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Island
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We are collectively working on a documentary about Theodore Roosevelt Island to raise awareness of the site and restore elements of the memorial there.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are providing support for documentary
Impact Impact not yet realized
Start Year 2014
 
Description TR Island Documentary 
Organisation Theodore Roosevelt Association
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We are collectively working on a documentary about Theodore Roosevelt Island to raise awareness of the site and restore elements of the memorial there.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are providing support for documentary
Impact Impact not yet realized
Start Year 2014
 
Description TR Island Documentary 
Organisation US National Park Service
Department George Washington Memorial Parkway
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We are collectively working on a documentary about Theodore Roosevelt Island to raise awareness of the site and restore elements of the memorial there.
Collaborator Contribution Partners are providing support for documentary
Impact Impact not yet realized
Start Year 2014
 
Description Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace 
Organisation Theodore Roosevelt Association
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I am working with the NPS and TRA on producing a history of Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace which is due to re-open in 2016.
Collaborator Contribution Michael Amato is working with me from the NPS to complete the short book, and Eastern National, the NPS publishing division. The TRA is providing support through their archives at the site.
Impact Forthcoming publication planned: short book
Start Year 2014
 
Description Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace 
Organisation US National Park Service
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I am working with the NPS and TRA on producing a history of Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace which is due to re-open in 2016.
Collaborator Contribution Michael Amato is working with me from the NPS to complete the short book, and Eastern National, the NPS publishing division. The TRA is providing support through their archives at the site.
Impact Forthcoming publication planned: short book
Start Year 2014
 
Description Theodore Roosevelt Legacy Partnership 
Organisation Theodore Roosevelt Legacy Partnership
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Supported through knowledge exchange events and seminars with stakeholders.
Collaborator Contribution The TRLP have invited me to give talks with research users in the Long Island region and with fundraisers for charitable project that align with the group's aims.
Impact Fundraising event October 24, 2018 Planned event October 2019
Start Year 2018
 
Description Book Tour - series of events 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In October 2018, I undertook a week-long book tour, lecturing, presenting in conversation, or debating elements of the book Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost (as well as coordinated book signings at some venues). These included: 1) Sagamore Hill, Long Island, NY (National Park Service & TR Legacy Partnership sponsored events); 2) Schools talks (Brooklyn Technical & EF Academy = 200+ students); 3) TR Association Annual Meeting (TR Association and invited political guests); 4) University tour including Hofstra University, Worcester State University, Manhattanville College, Marist College, and Simmons College; 5) In conversation with David Woolner at the FDR Presidential Library (150 resgistered attendees).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://eu.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/local/2018/10/23/fdr-library-and-museum-hosts-talk-the...
 
Description Film Screening - "The Man on the Island" 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discover the surprising history of America's largest presidential memorial

Theodore Roosevelt Island is the largest presidential memorial. It's also the least visited. A new documentary, The Man on the Island, tells the story of this most unusual place and how it has affected the memory of one of America's most popular presidents.

When Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919, memorial committees drafted plans for several monumental tributes. The most controversial was the national memorial at Washington DC. After failing to secure a location on the national mall, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association purchased Analostan Island, an alluvial island in the Potomac River. In 1932 they donated it to the nation as a memorial. The island underwent many changes, all of which have implications for how Theodore Roosevelt has been remembered. Originally conceived as a conservationist memorial, the island was painstaking groomed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. However, in the 1950s, as the population boomed in the capital, the city's planners built a roadway over the island.

Today, most people observe the island from their car as they cross the bridge. It attracts few visitors, despite the island's proximity to the national mall. Few people know the island's place in Washington's history or the way it has influenced Roosevelt's public memory.
The Man on the Island is a 60 minute documentary which tells the remarkable history of the island as a memorial to Roosevelt. The film will be introduced by Executive Producer Michael Cullinane, who will also take questions from the audience following the screening.

Sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bl.uk/events/theodore-roosevelt-island-a-most-unusual-american-memorial
 
Description Keynote Lecture: "The Legacy of Theodore Roosevelt," Theodore Roosevelt Legacy Partnership at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, October 24, 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact This talk, based on the book and public engagement activities, was part of the opening of a non-academic charity organization in the USA. The charity, using the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt as the basis for future work, was started at Sagamore Hill.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.trlegacypartnership.org/
 
Description Keynote Lecture: "Theodore Roosevelt the Ghost," Dickinson State University Annual Symposium, North Dakota. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Throughout the year, The Theodore Roosevelt Center hosts numerous events designed to raise awareness of Theodore Roosevelt, his impact on America and the world, and his lasting legacy. The annual TR Symposium is the biggest event of the year for the Center and brings NGOs, government lobbyists, students (primarily from North Dakota), National Park Service staff (U.S. federal employees) and general audiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org/Get-Involved/Events
 
Description Panelist at British Library Public Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Panelist: Survivors: American Presidents and the Politics of Scandal," British Library Summer Marquee Events, June 12, 2018. 150+ in attendance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bl.uk/events/survivors-american-presidents-and-the-politics-of-scandal