Recent Acquisitions & News

FDR's desk, with its new companion, a rotating oak bookcase. The volume sitting on top by the way, is a leather bound copy of the 1900-1901 Crimson, also recently acquired.

Hello everyone!

Well spring has certainly sprung in Cambridge, and while our weather wildly swings between days in the 80’s and nights in the teens, I thought I would take a moment to bring you up to date on a few items.

The first is a hearty welcome to our new rotating bookcase, a seemingly minor item that turned into quite the affair. We’ve been in the market for a one of these clever little space-saving gems since the beginning of the restoration; although once common (and hugely practical) unfortunately they are now rarer than hens’ teeth. After several years of searching for a case that fit our space, I finally decided to ask Lary Shaffer, the woodworker extraordinaire that built our Morris chairs, to construct one for us. Lary, always game for a new challenge, took on the project with gusto. Together he and I reverse-engineered various examples we discovered online, and then re-engineered our design to match FDR’s rolltop desk in size, material and scale. All in all we are very pleased; the case really completes FDR’s corner – which always seemed a bit bare compared to Lathrop’s rather opulent flattop (helped by the fact that Lathrop also gets an extra window). The bookcase also improves the Suite’s narrative, reflecting the fact that FDR was an avid bibliophile and book collector while at Harvard. Now all we need to do is fill it with appropriate volumes, and wait as the now golden oak fades and darkens to match FDR’s desk. (I was tempted to hurry the process along with stain but Lary insisted that wasn’t the thing to do, so patience, never my sterling trait, will have to be the byword.)

The bookcase, by the way, represents something of a milestone: we’re homing in on the end of the physical restoration. We have some small electrical work to finish, a daybed to build to better match our chairs in style and period (another project for Lary & I – we are already working on designs), and finally, the re-tiling of the fireplace surround, which for reasons never fully understood was de-tiled sometime during its history, along with all but one of the B-entry fireplaces. This is another custom job: we have a model in the sole surviving fireplace in the old porter’s lodge, but the tile is no longer made and will have to be custom fabricated for us. But that’s a story for another day. However, when these last projects are completed, the Suite will actually be finished (Deo volente) and we’ll be ready to move on to focus solely on our educational and scholarship programs.

And speaking of which: we have two more New Fireside Chats coming up, which are just waiting for me to edit: the first with Curtis Roosevelt was taped last November; the second with Father John Jay Hughes ’48, last October. Unfortunately I am way behind with getting these out; I was diverted first into finishing our video tour, Tales of a Suite, and then, to what became a ridiculously monumental project for the HAA, called Six Buildings that Shaped Harvard History. This is one of those things that you innocently agree to do, that just grow and grow and grow until it seems that it will never be finished (like the Suite!), but I am homing in on end of this one as well. I had originally agreed simply to host a video version of the popular walking tour I give each year; then I was asked to expand the project into more of television-like presentation for the 375th, then finally, to write, direct, and produce what has now become a 30 minute, PBS quality documentary. Why precisely I said I would do this I’m not sure, other than the fact that my contacts at the HAA are totally charming and hard to refuse. In any event, Six Buildings (done in a few weeks and to be announced here) will bring the Suite much added publicity, as the story involves the Gold Coast and the rise of the House system – and as part of the deal, the HAA will now be publicizing and promoting our Chats, at least when I get them finished, that is!

And finally: we’ve decided to push the Annual FDR Memorial Lecture into the fall. This was the result of several events, not the least of which was my being totally overwhelmed with other projects. The real stumbling block however has been finding a speaker of suitable note. We’ve asked filmmaker Ken Burns, who declined for this year but promised a future talk closer to the launch of his new Roosevelt documentary; David McCullough who didn’t get back to us (naughty naughty) and several other prominent persons in the political world, who for various reasons were unable to commit. Given these difficulties, and since this is our fifth anniversary and a banquet year to boot, we’ve decided to work on the event over the summer for a fall launch. If any of you have suggestions for a speaker of appropriate stature and note (and/or connections to proffer the invitation), we’d love to hear from you!

That’s all for now… stay tuned.

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3 comments on “Recent Acquisitions & News

  1. Doug Carver on

    Michael –

    As always a pleasure to read your reports, derived from a combination of your entrepreneurial spirit, your good taste, and your excellent style.

    But enough of idle compliments which I know are of no interest to you. What I really want to say is that one potential speaker who may, or may not, interest you is John Bethel, former Editor of the Harvard Alumni Bulletin and a serious historian of FDR. I believe he may have even written a biography. I think you may have already had contacts with John.

    Take care,

    Doug

    Reply
    • Michael Weishan on

      Doug,

      John is an excellent suggestion, and I’ll pass it along; we’ve been in touch already as he’s given us permission to reprint his FDR piece on our site. As for compliments, well let’s just say I follow my father’s oft-quoted comment, that a good compliment is better than a juicy ripe tomato on a hot summer’s day… And I do LOVE tomatoes. 🙂

      M

      Reply
  2. John & Jane Field on

    Dear Michael,
    Your care and perseverance with the whole FDR Project is extraordinary. Harvard is so lucky to have you working on this project! You have the most amazing amount of energy!
    I often wish that FDR were alive today to see and hear how much he is revered all over the world, after all these years of being criticized for his policies. He would probably chuckle!
    Jane Field

    Reply

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