If you want to spend part of Memorial Day weekend honoring those fallen in military service in some way, but haven’t been all that keen on the sorts of interventionist wars that America has been waging in recent memory, you could hardly do better than to head over to Hyde Park. This weekend, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum and the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site always offer a topnotch array of historical programs harking back to what folks sometimes refer to as the Good War.
The weekend kicks off in a spirit of Forties-style fun with a reasonable facsimile of the USO Shows that were put on to entertain American troops serving around the globe during World War II. This year’s tenth annual USO Show will feature two hours of family-friendly entertainment including live Big Band music, comedy and juggling, historic newsreels and more. If the spirit moves you and your wardrobe permits, dress appropriately for the era (where did I put my snood?) and come prepared to jitterbug. The joint starts jumpin’ at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 24 in the Henry A. Wallace Center, and there is a $5-per-person suggested donation.
Also at the Wallace Center, the Roosevelt Library will present a weekend of historic military displays all day Saturday and Sunday, May 25 and 26. Collections of military uniforms, prop weapons and insignia from 1917 to the present day will be on view, and reenactors in battle dress will be on hand to share their expertise about military history. Customized dog tags will be available for purchase, and period military vehicles will be on display in the Library parking lot. Admission is free for this event.
On Memorial Day itself, Monday, May 27 at 1:30 p.m., the weekend activities end on an appropriately somber note as the National Park Service hosts a graveside memorial service in the Rose Garden at the Home of FDR National Historic Site. Hyde Park resident John Golden will be the guest speaker, and various community organizations will present wreaths in honor of President Roosevelt. Admission is also free for this event.
If things look a little different around the FDR compound this weekend, it’s because the big renovation project that has been going on for the past three years is just about completed: the first renovation of the Library building since it opened in 1941, with the exception of the two wings added for the Eleanor Roosevelt collection in 1972. This latest project was intended to bring the Library’s archives and museum up to the National Archives’ standards for the preservation of historic collections, while carefully preserving the building’s historic appearance.
The Roosevelt Library’s new permanent museum exhibits will tell the story of the Roosevelt presidency beginning in the depths of the Great Depression and continuing through the New Deal and World War II, with an emphasis on both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s relationship with the American people. They will include rarely seen artifacts, immersive audiovisual theaters billed as Fireside Chat Environments, a recreation of FDR’s secret White House Map Room and special interactives on topics like “Japanese-American Internment,” “FDR and the Holocaust,” “FDR’s Health” and “Did the New Deal Really Work?”
The National Archives and Records Administration will formally open the Library’s new state-of-the-art permanent museum exhibits on June 30. Museum visitors will be able to see the exhibits between 2 and 8 p.m. at regular admission fees. A by-invitation-only private Rededication Ceremony, scheduled for 11 a.m. on June 30, will be webcast live at www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu.
USO Show, Friday, May 24, 7 p.m., $5, military displays, Saturday/Sunday, May 25/26, free, Henry A. Wallace Center, FDR Presidential Library; Graveside Service, Monday, May 27, 1:30 p.m., free, Rose Garden, Home of FDR National Historic Site, 4079 Albany Post Road/Route 9, Hyde Park; www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu.