JULY 25, 1939
HYDE PARK, Monday—We had a rather interesting ceremony this morning when the President signed the deed, turning over to the Government, the land for the library which is to be built from private funds. The archivist, Mr. R. D. W. Connor, received the deed for the Government and Mr. L. A. Simon, Supervising Architect of the Procurement Division, was present with the blueprints of the building itself. Besides the newspaper people, the Postmaster General Mr. Frank Walker and our various households; the Supervisor of the Village of Hyde Park, Mr. Elmer Van Wagner, and a few neighbors were present.
For the first time, many of us heard the President describe just what the library would have of interest to the public, outside of his books and papers which will, of course, be historical records covering a period of forty years. He is apparently planning to put in one room a good part of his naval collection, which includes models, prints and books, and in another smaller room will be all the pictures and historical material which he has dealing with the early Hudson River days.
He will also include various things which have been given to him at various times, which he feels are of such historical interest that they should not be given to any member of the family and thereby be lost to the public.
The historians on the committee feel that it is well to scatter documents of historical interest, partly for the sake of safety and partly because it allows people to see things in different parts of the country. This awakens their interest, so that, in visiting other places, they will be keener to see whatever that section has to offer from an historical point of view.
In talking to Mr. Norman Littell yesterday, I was much interested to find that when he was a student at Oxford, he had spent one of his holidays studying for a history exam in Mr. Gladstone's library. Mr. Gladstone left his books, which consisted of a very good historical library and a religious library, to the British Government. His home, Hawarden Castle, has also been left as a museum and near the library has been built a small and simple "hostel" where students who use the library and are recommended by the deans of their colleges, may stop at very slight expense.
I wonder if, in the future, we will have places similar to this? A museum, of course, would be visited by a great many people. But to keep the library part of it a place where people can do serious work, and to make it particularly available to students seems a real contribution to education.
After the ceremony was over, Mrs. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Mr. Walker, Mr. George Allen, Mr. Connor and Mr. Simon, together with Johnny and Anne who arrived toward the end of the ceremony, had lunch with us. The Postmaster General, who is sailing Wednesday on the same ship with Johnny and Anne, left at once with Major Hooker for New York by motor. He sounded as though he had a good many things to do before he started on his holiday!