As the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum continues its progress in Medora, area community discussions and outreach programming are attracting locals in an attempt to get area residents more involved in the discussion, while highlighting how the new facility will benefit southwestern North Dakota for years to come.
During an open house Friday at the Fairfield Fire Hall, officials with the library foundation gathered with community members from Fairfield, Belfield and beyond to review the details of the project as well as provide updates. Currently, the project is still in its design phase until 2023, Director of Design and Construction Ken Vein said, explaining that they are working on the building and site designs including interior designs — which consists of the interpretive design space mainly, Vein said.
As of now, Vein said the project is making great strides for its summer 2025 opening date. Though there haven’t been too many hurdles, there is a process with any kind of project especially with one of this magnitude, Vein added.
‘“This project isn’t just about a building, it’s about the site and it’s about the connection to the Badlands. The Badlands is a special, special place, and our building is going to be a special building that fits into the Badlands and really promotes the connection to nature and what we’re trying to do,” he said. “… Some of the things we’re doing from a sustainability (standpoint) is cutting edge is what we’re trying to do. You see zero energy, zero water, zero emissions, zero waste. Those are future concepts that we think very much align with what TR wanted us to do and we’re incorporating all those different things in the design to make it special.”
In 2019, the library foundation wanted to host an architectural competition for the project, Vein said, adding that it included looking at more than 60 architect firms from around the world. After narrowing down the search to one, the library foundation went ahead with Norwegian-American architecture firm Snøhetta to design the high-profile project. But the library foundation felt it was integral to have a North Dakota firm as part of the design stage, Vein said.
In December of 2020, the group behind the proposed library project hired JLG Architects to be the project’s architect of record and JE Dunn to serve as construction manager.
“With … (JLG), we looked at their submittal as one that we felt was most fitting for the Badlands and also who was probably the best fit to work with us just in general,” Vein said. “… And then we’ve had to go through the other processes and we’re still in the way of doing it is acquiring the land and then going through all of the jurisdictional processes which we’re doing as we’re doing the design.”
One of the main focal points for the interpretive design of this project was not only bringing in a nation and worldwide audience, but also attracting natives to the area, Vein said.
“… The biggest advantage to the locals (is when) our architect said we need to design it for people within a 15-mile radius. If we can design it for people in that radius, we can design it for the world. And so, the emphasis is this area,” Vein said.
Another focus for the design is the benefit it will have for children’s education. Instead of parents “dragging” their children to museums and historical sites, this facility will attract children bringing their parents to want to learn more about Theodore Roosevelt, Vein noted.
“We think that this library isn’t just going to be to learn about him, …the intent is how do you learn from him and how do you take what you learn out into the world,” Vein said, adding,”… So I think that’s one of the most exciting things about it.”
For those who have questions regarding this project, Vein encourages people to visit trlibrary.com. By having an open house, it allows for open dialogue and transparency to the local community, he added.
“I think what it is is that we get feedback from some that not everybody knows what’s going on, and we’ve had a lot of meetings and public meetings in Medora… We’ve really tried our hardest to make sure people are informed and we get feedback. But we have not to this date been out in the rural area like this, and so we were asked if we would do that and by all means, come out and make ourselves available. So we did an open house data presentation because people can come and go,” Vein said. “… So that’s the goal is to make sure people are informed. After all, it’s in this area — they should know what’s going on. And we want feedback; we’d like to hear from them what works and what’s not working… It’s going to be a world-class facility… (with) that type of design and integrate a value for us.”