News Article

Foundation Board Member Ken Burns Reaches Millions with “The Roosevelts” on PBS

September 19, 2014

The Foundation for the National Archives today applauded the phenomenal interest Board member Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts” has received this week as it aired on PBS. Nielson reports an estimated 9.1 million people watched the first episode of the seven-part series, which kicked off on Sunday.  Burns’ team consulted more than 5,600 documents from the National Archives’ holdings, primarily from the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York. Nearly 600 of those records were featured in the week-long series.

“We’ve long heard from viewers that the still photographs we use seem alive, said Ken Burns, who also serves as a Vice President on the Foundation’s Board. “That’s because we are blessed with the National Archives, an organization that breathes life into our country’s rich and often complicated history. I encourage everyone to visit this extraordinary institution and spend some quality time with our collective past.”

In support of Burns’ documentary and to highlight the role of the National Archives’ collections in helping him create it, the Foundation for the National Archives has promoted a specially curated online “Roosevelt Week,” with multiple posts across social media platforms highlighting significant Archives holdings and fun facts about Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor. Posts on TwitterFacebook and Tumblr have allowed the Foundation to educate new visitors – drawn in through Burns’ series – about the importance of the National Archives and the role of the Foundation in enhancing the public’s awareness of the holdings.

“Ken has brought his signature style to ‘The Roosevelts,’ making history feel intimate and personal through photographs, letters and documents. Like the Roosevelts, the stories of all American families are here at the Archives,” said A’Lelia Bundles, Chairman of the Foundation Board. “While most of us can’t point to presidential proclamations in our family papers, we all can find our ancestors in the U.S. Census, military records, immigration documents and a range of surprising sources.”

It was President Franklin Roosevelt who paved the way for the creation of the National Archives.  While many previous presidents donated their papers to the Library of Congress, this was not the best fit for President Roosevelt. Not only was his collection too expansive for that institution at the time, but Roosevelt was concerned about having all of the nation’s important documents housed in only one place. It was his vision that actually created the National Archives and set the precedent for the nation’s first presidential library, which he built on a 16 acre section of his mother’s home in Hyde Park, NY. Learn more here.

THE ROOSEVELTS: AN INTIMATE HISTORY chronicles the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. It is the first time in a major documentary television series that their individual stories have been interwoven into a single narrative. This seven-part, fourteen hour film follows the Roosevelts for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Together, these three individuals not only redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, but also redefined the role of the United States within the wider world. For more information, go to

DVDs of the series and its companion book can be purchased from the myArchives Store.