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Roosevelt Site exhibit allows interaction with history; Installation completes museum's addition of carriage house

A new 21st-century interactive exhibit was unveiled Friday in the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site.

The new installations include an interactive globe and computer kiosk designed to resemble an old-fashioned rolltop desk, which were displayed briefly Friday for the museum's most generous benefactors during a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony. They represent the final phase of the museum's carriage house addition to the former Wilcox Mansion on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo's Allentown neighborhood.

"We've taken a major leap forward for a historic house museum. The site is definitely breaking new ground in the museum field," said Molly Quackenbush, the site's executive director.

"It, indeed, took a village and a great deal of teamwork and together we really have revitalized this really important local and national landmark. Now it can reach, hopefully, its full potential as one of our leading community heritage assets, thanks to all of you," Quackenbush added, addressing about 50 major donors to museum's multiple-year, capital projects campaign.

The $2.7 million carriage house addition was first opened in June 2009. Lawrence Seymour, immediate past president of the museum's board of trustees and chairman of its capital campaign, said that, with the addition of the new features, the site offers a vastly better experience than typical guided tours of historic homes.

"We are an educational institution now. This is the basic mission of this house. It always has been," Seymour said.

Even before Friday's unveiling, Seymour said visitor traffic at the museum increased by25 percent during the first year that the new carriage house addition was opened. Since the museum offers more space and more activities, he said the board also adjusted the admission price, which also helped to increase the museum's revenues.

"The architectural design gave us three times the space we had, and it's laid out that much better," Seymour added.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Rochester, who helped to obtain $150,000 in federal funds that enabled the museum to complete its final exhibits, attended Friday's ribbon-cutting.

"What you saved here is not just for us; it's for the nation," Slaughter told trustees and donors. "It is one of the most extraordinary things in our area and one of the very few inaugural sites outside of Washington [D.C.]. I think it might be the only one."

Slaughter said it was a fitting tribute to the legacy of the nation's 26th president. In addition to having been a Spanish-American War hero, Medal of Honor recipient and undersecretary of the Navy, Roosevelt is credited with being one of the first environmentalists to occupy the White House.

"For the man who originated the National Parks Service, to have the place where he was sworn in be a part of that, I believe I know how much he would have loved that," Slaughter added.

The museum's trustees also unveiled a plaque that lists major contributors to capital campaign for the carriage house addition.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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