The latest film project from Ken Burns, "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," debuts at 8pm Sunday on WNED-TV. The seven-part, 14-hour documentary is expected to draw attention to Buffalo's connection to famous family: The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site.
Often a staple of elementary school field trips, many may have visited the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site in decades past, but much has changed. For many years the focus of the site was Victorian Buffalo.
"The Board of Trustees of the Roosevelt Site decided that, for purposes of bringing more people in, that was, perhaps, too narrow a focus.," said Stanton Hudson, the site's executive director.
In recent years, the site has been more focused on the 26th President of the United States. According to Hudson, Teddy Roosevelt has been a hit with patrons. The number of visitors in July was up 40 percent from the previous year; 35 percent of all visitors are from out of town.
"In order to try to make this a more engaging experience for visitors who are not necessarily diehard historians, our tour is a narrative tour," explained the site's Education Specialist Mark Lozo.
"We ask people to imagine that we're taking them back to September of 1901 and going through this home (the Wilcox Mansion) as if Roosevelt is actually here."
As Lozo leads a tour through the house, he explains Roosevelt's probable mindset as he was preparing to be sworn-in as President. To add to the drama, pictures and reenactments are seen and heard throughout the site. Roosevelt's words reveal his understanding of the history that was about to be made.
With 250 volunteers, 22 board members, seven part-time employees and seven full-time employees, the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site enjoys a strong position among local cultural institutions. Stanton Hudson, the executive director, says the operating budget has exceeded $700,000 for the first time.
With that growth, Hudson would like the site to follow another of Roosevelt's principles.
"Roosevelt was all about the idea of citizenship," Hudson said.
"What we want to do here, we're hoping to become a Commons, a place of public discourse, not trying to present one particular point of view or perspective, but allowing a variety of perspectives."
The site will hold a naturalization ceremony on Friday where 31 people will become citizens of the United States.
Sunday's debut of "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History" falls on the 113th anniversary of Roosevelt taking the oath of office in Buffalo. To mark the occasion, Hudson says, the site will hold a "free family day" on Saturday.
Find more information at: http://www.trsite.org/