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Ken Burns to preview new series for Arms Library

SHELBURNE FALLS — Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will be in Memorial Hall on Feb. 12, giving the audience a preview of his latest documentary series, “The Roosevelts,” in a program to benefit the Arms Library/Pratt Memorial building renovation project.

Burns will show clips from the documentary series and talk about what went into the making of it. He may also discuss others of his famed productions. Among his most famous documentaries are “The Dust Bowl,” “Baseball,” “Jazz” and “The Civil War.”

Tickets to “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” are now on sale, although seating is limited to 400. The tickets are $25 each, with the proceeds to go toward the $750,000 “phase 1” library renovation plan. The event will begin at 7 p.m. An earlier reception for Burns at the Arms Library — a 6 p.m. “meet and greet,” which cost $100 per person — has already been sold out.

“The Roosevelts” is a seven-part series that will air on PBS television stations in the fall. The film follows this politically powerful family for 104 years — from the birth of Theodore Roosevelt in 1858 to the death of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1962. It weaves the lives of Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, and Franklin’s wife and fifth-cousin, Eleanor, into one narrative.

“The Roosevelts have played significant roles in other stories we’ve told before, from the national parks to World War II,” said Burns. “But beyond simply sharing a bloodline or political success, they each shared a passionate belief that America is at its strongest when everyone has an equal chance. And on a personal level, they each struggled to overcome their own fears while maintaining a public face of courage.”

Actress Meryl Streep portrays Eleanor Roosevelt, in readings from the former First Lady’s personal letters and writings.

According to Burns, Streep is “a magician. Here, she completely transformed herself into Eleanor Roosevelt, simply through her voice.”

Actor Paul Giamatti does the voice of Theodore Roosevelt and Edward Herrmann portrays FDR.

Kim Klein, a Shelburne Falls resident who worked with Burns at Florentine Films, asked the filmmaker to come to Shelburne Falls for the fundraiser. “I knew the library is in a sad state,” said Klein, in a November interview with The Recorder.

Klein is currently executive director of The Better Angel Society, a nonprofit organization established to fund and provide educational outreach for documentary films on American history.

Fund raising ‘crunch-time’

Cost estimates for the full library renovation have increased, with the complete renovation estimated at $1.3 million.

In December, George Dole of Margo Jones Architects told the Pratt Memorial Library Building Committee that the 2011 rains of Tropical Storm Irene brought “near disaster” to the building, as water sheeted down interior walls and pooled in the basement. The committee says the domed- and peaked roofs on the building leaked profusely, drainage pipes from the roof to the foundation overflowed, and the foundation drainage system was overwhelmed. The cost-estimate for the phase I exterior renovations is now $750,000, and the cost for interior repairs for phase II is now at $550,000.

So far, the project’s fundraising committee has raised at least $140,000; the town of Shelburne has contributed $70,000, which made it possible to hire an architect for the project.

Phase I includes restoring the roof and drainage system, which includes fixing the copper-domed roof, two tiled, peaked roofs, and a flat membrane; enlarging the drains that run down the interior, from the roof to the foundation; and mending and re-pointing the masonry.

“The more homegrown fundraising we achieve, the more likely we will be able to garner large grants to support the project,” said fundraising Chairwoman Whit Sanford. Along with the program at Memorial Hall, items signed by Ken Burns will be raffled, to benefit the library.

Tickets are available at: Arms Library, Mocha Maya’s, Boswell’s Books and People’s United Bank in Shelburne Falls, at Ashfield Hardware and Elmer’s in Ashfield, at World Eye Bookstore in Greenfield, Broadside Books in Northampton and Amherst Bookstore in Amherst.

Those who just want to make a donation to the library restoration can send a check to:

“Put a Roof on It” Capital Campaign, Arms Library Association, 60 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls, MA 01370.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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