JFK Library Opens 1st Online Presidential Archive

Daily News Article   —   Posted on January 14, 2011

(by Brett Zongker, YahooNews.com) AP, WASHINGTON – Caroline Kennedy unveiled the nation’s first online presidential archive Thursday, a $10 million project to digitize the most important papers, photographs and recordings of President John F. Kennedy’s days in office.

Users can sort through the drafts of Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you,” speech and see how he tinkered with the words of that most famous line from his inauguration. Or they can listen to his personal phone calls and read his letters.

In advance of the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s inauguration Jan. 20, Caroline Kennedy visited the National Archives, saying it reminded her the nation was built on words and ideas – and that her father’s call to service was more relevant than ever.

“His time is becoming part of history, not living memory, and we need to reach across the generations in new ways,” Caroline Kennedy said… “He inspired a generation who inspired their children. They transformed America, and that’s why 50 years later, his legacy still resonates.”

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After four years of work, the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston has made that a reality. Archivists digitized over 200,000 pages, 1,200 recordings and 300 museum artifacts, as well as reels of film and hundreds of photographs.

Library Director Tom Putnam said they started with all of Kennedy’s Oval Office files – everything that went across his desk – along with his personal papers, official White House photos, audio of all his public remarks, video of his famous speeches, and home movies. Archivists knew the most requested items in their research room in Boston and used them as a guide. …..

Original files will remain accessible at the Kennedy Library, Putnam said. The digital records, though, will help preserve the originals because they will be handled less frequently, he said.

The library will continue digitizing about 100,000 pages a year, along with thousands of photos and recordings. At that rate, it would still take more than 100 years to digitize all records from the Kennedy administration.

For students across the country, the online archive will mean access to primary documents for school research. They could examine Kennedy’s correspondence with Martin Luther King Jr. from the time they first met to the time King was jailed in Birmingham, Ala. …..

Also Thursday, cable carrier Comcast announced it will offer free on-demand video of Kennedy’s speeches, debates, campaign commercials, documentaries and films to mark the 50th anniversary of his inauguration. That content, in partnership with the Kennedy Library, will be available beginning Friday through Feb. 25.

Only the George W. Bush and William J. Clinton presidential libraries have extensive records that were “born digital” in the computer age. The Kennedy Library’s archive will be the largest collection available online to the public.

David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, said it will serve as a prototype for other presidential libraries.

“In the past 50 years since President Kennedy took office, the scope and scale of presidential records has escalated, as have expectations of access to those records,” he said. “For students today, if it isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.”

Copyright ©2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. The information contained in this AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Visit news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110113/ap_on_re_us/us_kennedy_digital_archives for the original post.


Questions

1. a) What is an archive?
b) What does an archivist do?

2. What is significant about the JFK archive?

3. What information/documents of President Kennedy’s will people now be able to access on the internet? Be specific.

4. a) How long will it take the library to digitize all of the documents, etc. from the Kennedy administration?
b) How did archivists decide what material they should digitize first?

5. How will one cable company commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s inauguration?

OPTIONAL: Visit the Kennedy Library website at jfklibrary.org. Which information is most surprising to you? Why?


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a daily email with answers.

Background

NOTE: Private partners – including AT&T, EMC Corp., Raytheon Co. and Iron Mountain Corp. – contributed $6.5 million in equipment and technical services to digitize thousands of records. Iron Mountain will store backup copies of all the digital files about 200 feet below ground at its facility in western Pennsylvania.

ON THE ARCHIVIST OF THE UNITED STATES:

  • The Archivist of the United States is the chief official overseeing the operation of the National Archives and Records Administration.
  • The first Archivist, R.D.W. Connor, began serving in 1934, when the National Archives was established as an independent Federal agency by Congress.
  • The Archivist is appointed by the President and is responsible for safeguarding and making available for study all the permanently valuable records of the Federal Government, including the actual Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which are displayed in the Archives’ main building in Washington, D.C.
  • Under Public Law No. 98-497, the Archivist also must maintain custody of state legislative ratifications of amendments to the United States Constitution and proclaim a particular amendment duly ratified and part of the Constitution if the legislatures of at least three-quarters of the states approve the proposed amendment. (from wikipedia)

Resources

Visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum website at: jfklibrary.org.

Visit the National Archives website at archives.gov/about/history/archivists.