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JFK Library opens largest online digitized presidential archive

Lucas Mearian | Jan. 13, 2011
The online archive includes 7.5 million feet of film footage

FRAMINGHAM 13 JANUARY 2011 - Marking the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, the JFK Library Foundation today unveiled the nation's largest online digitized presidential archive, providing access to papers, records, photographs and recordings of the 35th president's thousand days in office.

The four-year online archive digitization project, which in compressed form used about 117TB of storage, includes about 200,000 document 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 digital," according to a foundation statement.

Foundation President Caroline Kennedy and U.S. Archivist David Ferriero were on hand at the ceremonial opening in the Archivist's Reception Room in the National Archives building in Washington.

"My parents believed that history is one of our greatest teachers," Caroline Kennedy said in a statement. "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."

In a foreshadowing of today's event, in 1961 President Kennedy responded to a press conference question as to whether he would consider sharing his presidential papers outside of his hometown library, saying, "Through scientific means of reproduction ... and this will certainly be increased as time goes on, we will find it possible to reproduce the key documents so that they will be commonly available."

Prior to today, the historical material housed in the Kennedy Presidential Library collection in Boston has been available only on-site. With the launch of the new digital archive, the material is open globally to the public, giving people a first-hand look into the life of President Kennedy and the issues that defined his administration.

Included in the materials are thousands of historical papers, documents and images from the era of the nation's civil rights struggle; the U.S. conflict with the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, including the Cuban Missile Crisis; NASA's challenge to land a man on the moon; and the creation of the Peace Corps.


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