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Hyde Park's New FDR Library Director Looks Ahead While Looking Back

Paul Sparrow, the new director of the FDR Library in Hyde Park.
Paul Sparrow, the new director of the FDR Library in Hyde Park. Photo Credit: Submitted

HYDE PARK, N.Y. -- Paul Sparrow, the recently appointed Director of the FDR Library in Hyde Park, is all about teaching the next generation the importance of history.

As the father of a high schooler, the LaGrange resident, formerly a senior executive with the Newseum in Washington, D.C., said Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt stood for things that continue to be important today, including racial and gender equality and global conflict.

Seeing their documents -- letters, speeches, and memos-- provides the American public with access to the reality of how our government works and brings those stories to life, he said. "Roosevelt was the first president who really understood the power of those documents so that future historians could access this material."

FDR's vision, in fact, led to all other presidents opening Presidential Libraries. "This is indicative of his sense of history," said Sparrow.

Though the Library tends to attract more tourists than locals -- Ken Burns' recent documentary on the Roosevelts has helped grow attendance enormously -- Sparrow hopes upcoming events will entice more locals.

Coming up in 2016: Big 75th anniversary plans, both around the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the 75th anniversary of the Presidential Library System with a host of programs and events -- and hopefully some former presidents -- for Fourth of July weekend.

More immediately, there are several events around the holidays including a candle light parade and a series of programs that look at the community around Hyde Park.

"Roosevelt was very attached to this area; it had deep roots for him," said Sparrow. "He always tried to come home for Christmas and I'd like to find a way to open up some of the letters and cards he got from the public and have those on display."

Sparrow has been in the job just about three months and said the library is in the best shape it's ever been. His goal? To make it better and expand its digital prescence. He'd also like to do more aggressive outreach to schools.

"If we can create effective, short interactive media components for use in classrooms, we can get more students engaged in history," he said.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum, run by the National Archives,  is located at 4079 Albany Post Rd., (845) 486-7741, www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu /.

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