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FDR Museum still on target

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

CHICOPEE Although the re-opening of the Franklin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Center Museum will not happen on the date originally announced March 8, 2008 the president of the museum is still planning to make Chicopee the new permanent home of the collection of Roosevelt memorabilia and documents.

Dr. Joseph Plaud met last Thursday with city officials to assess the renovation needs of the former city library, Plaud plans to use as his museum.

Chicopee became the front-runner for a new home for the collection after an intensive lobbying effort by mayor Michael Bissonnette. Until earlier this year, the museum was housed in the restored Union Station in Worcester.

The collection includes a wide range of items associated with Roosevelt, from personal items such as the wristwatch he was wearing when he died in 1945 to personal letters.

Plaud does not have the building yet and the city will send out one more Request for Proporsals to see if there is any development interest besides Plaud's. The last time the city sent out a RFP there were no proposals.

He explained to Reminder Publications that the building needs a new roof and has to be made accessible for the handicapped, among other improvements. He estimated the building wouldn't be ready until sometime in 2009.

"The building was made to be a museum," he said. "It's just a matter of going through the process."

City workers began clearing out discarded shelving and desks from the former library on Thursday. Students from the Westover Job Corps are donating their services to paint the interior of the building.

Plaud is proceeding with his other plans with Elms College. He has been working with Elms President Dr. James Mullen, Jr. to establish the Roosevelt Public Policy Institute at the college. The Institute would develop a curriculum to study Roosevelt's New Deal policies and how they apply to 21st Century America.

He will be speaking about the public policy institute to others interested in Roosevelt's legacy at the upcoming Four Freedoms award ceremonies in New York City.

Elms College will also be the site for exhibitions of some of the Roosevelt collection until the museum is open, Plaud said..

Plaud had originally chosen March 8, 2008 for his projected opening date as it is the 75th anniversary of Roosevelt's New Deal.