WASHINGTON, D.C. – To help mark the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, today unveiled the nation’s largest online digitized presidential archive, providing unprecedented global access to the most important papers, records, photographs and recordings of President John F. Kennedy’s thousand days in office. The announcement was made in the Archivist’s Reception Room in the National Archives building in Washington, D.C.
Until now, the national treasure of historical material housed in the Kennedy Presidential Library’s collection has been available only by a physical visit to the library itself. With the launch of the new digital archive at www.jfklibrary.org, students, teachers, researchers and members of the public now just need an internet connection to search, browse and retrieve original documents from the Kennedy Library’s collection, gaining a first-hand look into the life of President Kennedy and the issues that defined his administration.
“The Kennedy Library’s Access to a Legacy project is a service to our nation. The digitization of archival records is becoming an essential means to allow the public greater access to our national treasures via websites, social media or the growing area of mobile applications,” said David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. “This initiative will open new areas of learning and discovery through the library’s archives and will preserve precious documents on digital media for future generations.”
“My parents believed that history is one of our greatest teachers,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the Kennedy Library Foundation. “As young people increasingly rely on the internet as their primary source for information, it is our hope that the Library’s online archive will allow a new generation to learn about this important chapter in American history. And as they discover the heroes of the civil rights movement, the pioneers of outer space, and the first Peace Corps volunteers, we hope they too are inspired to ask what they can do for their country.”
The historic launch of the online archive comes more than four years after Senator Edward M. Kennedy first announced this unprecedented effort to digitize, describe, and electronically archive a selection of the Kennedy Library’s most important holdings, enabling world-wide access 24/7 via the internet. As the largest, most advanced digital archive created by a Presidential Library not “born digital,” the project can serve as a model for other presidential libraries and national and international archival institutions.
Included among the thousands of historical papers, documents and images that are now permanently preserved are precious and irreplaceable records of the nation’s struggle for Civil Rights; its conflict with the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War; its efforts to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth; its commitment to public service through the creation of the Peace Corps; its prevention of a nuclear holocaust during the Cuban Missile Crisis; and its embrace of American art and culture under the guidance of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
To manage a digitization project of this enormity, the archivists of the Kennedy Presidential Library prioritized the Library’s historic collections beginning with those that hold the highest research interest and significance. These collections include the President’s Office Files; the Personal Papers of John F. Kennedy; the Outgoing Letters of President John F. Kennedy; the JFK White House Photograph Collection; the JFK White House Audio Speech Collection; and the JFK White House Film and Video Collection. At launch, the archive features approximately 200,000 pages; 300 reels of audio tape, containing more than 1,245 individual recordings of telephone calls, speeches and meetings; 300 museum artifacts; 72 reels of film; and 1,500 photos. The sheer volume of digitized materials is unprecedented for presidential libraries whose collections were not born digitally.
Joining Caroline Kennedy and David Ferriero for the announcement of the archive launch were Sharon Fawcett, Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries; Thomas J. Putnam, Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library; and Foundation Board member Edwin Schlossberg, husband of Caroline Kennedy and principle of ESI Design, who first envisioned a data asset management system that would enable the Kennedy Presidential Library to make its archives available to a world-wide audience.
The digitization initiative would not have been possible without the public/private partnership between the federally operated John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration, and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the 501 c 3 non-profit that secured significant financial support from private donors in order to help fund the project.
During the announcement, Caroline Kennedy also paid tribute to four leading corporations – AT&T, EMC Corporation, Iron Mountain and Raytheon Company – who stepped forward to offer the critical hardware, software and other in-kind technical expertise needed to make the pioneering initiative a reality. The four founding technical partners were represented at the launch by James W. Cicconi, Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs for AT&T; Paul T. Dacier, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, EMC Corporation; Robert T. Brennan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Iron Mountain; and William H. Swanson, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Raytheon Company, and Vice Chairman of the Kennedy Library Foundation.
The Kennedy Presidential Library’s research facilities are among the busiest of presidential libraries. Its archives currently include more than 8.4 million pages of the personal, congressional and presidential papers of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and more than 40 million pages of over 300 other individuals who were associated with the Kennedy Administration or mid-20th Century American history. In addition, the archives hold more than 400,000 still photographs; 9,000 hours of audio recordings; 7.5 million feet of motion picture film; and 1,200 hours of video recordings. Digitization efforts are ongoing and additional material will continue to be added to the archive as it is scanned and described.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is one of 13 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and is supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy Presidential Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.