Department of the Interior

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March 25, 2005 202-208-6459
Eleanor Roosevelt and Val-Kill Industries
Opens at the Interior Museum

(WASHINGTON) - An exhibition opening today at the U.S. Department of the Interior Museum chronicles an almost forgotten aspect of the work of Eleanor Roosevelt-the development of a handicraft industry from its creation in 1926 by Roosevelt and three friends in Hyde Park, N.Y.

The exhibition, Eleanor Roosevelt and Val-Kill Industries, features a lecture on Mar. 30 and continues on display at the museum through Oct. 31, 2005. The exhibit depicts how the experiment started with a venture employing master craftsmen and apprentices to make Colonial Revival furniture, and grew over the next decade to include other crafts such as a pewter forge and weaving project. The Interior Museum exhibit features select examples of wooden furnishings, pewter accessories and textiles on loan from the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site.

Recognizing that the regional agricultural community was losing its workforce to urban locales, Val-Kill Industries provided jobs for as many as sixty people, thereby sustaining families otherwise dependent upon farming. The Val-Kill story is told by the hand-crafted products made there: a Queen Anne mirror, Pennsylvania pine dresser, butterfly table and caned chairs with their distinctive, Pilgrim-style detailing. The modestly sized furniture retains its intended proportional relationship to the galleries in which it is exhibited.

Ripples from the Val-Kill model were felt nationally when a number of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal employment relief programs embraced the handicraft traditions practiced at Val-Kill.

On Wednesday, Mar. 30, George Washington University Assistant Professor of History Dr. Allida Black will present a lecture entitled "Marketing Reform: Eleanor Roosevelt, Val-Kill Industries and the Search for Economic Justice" to provide further understanding of Val-Kill Industries' significance during the socio-political climate of the 1930s.
Dr. Black is the project director and editor of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. The lecture will begin at 10:00 a.m. in the Sidney R. Yates Auditorium on the first floor of the U.S. Department of the Interior's headquarters building at 1849 C Street, N.W. The program is open to the public and admission is free; reservations are not required.

The Interior Museum's Eleanor Roosevelt and Val-Kill Industries marks the first opportunity to view an exhibition of these handicrafts outside of the region of New York in which they were made, although the Roosevelts' furnishings at The White House included more than two dozen examples of Val-Kill crafts. The exhibition presents a unique glimpse at the ingenuity of Eleanor Roosevelt and her friends to create alternative employment that addressed regional economic concerns.

The Interior Museum is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except federal holidays) and the third Saturday of each month from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free and adult visitors must present a form of photo identification (such as a driver's license, student ID, or employment card) when entering the Main Interior Building at 1849 C Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C. Wheelchair access is available at the 18th and E Streets entrance. For more information, call 202-208-4743.




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