Online archive brings JFK alive for a new generation

Lauren Keiper

Thousands of documents, photos and even recorded phone conversations of President John F Kennedy are going online and will be available to a whole new generation of high-tech armchair historians.

The online digital archive of the 35th US president has been unveiled this week by the John F Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.

Now, instead of having to travel to Boston, historians and the general public alike will have online access to 200,000 document pages, 1,200 individual telephone conversations, speeches and meetings and 1,500 photos.

"For young people today, if it isn't on the Internet, it doesn't really exist," said library director Tom Putnam.

"I hope this brings him alive to a new generation," he said. It gives a fuller sense of the man, he added.

It took four years to digitise the artefacts, photos and videos, said Mr Putnam.


He called the collection "the largest and most sophisticated digital presidential archive in the nation".

A team of nearly two dozen people scanned Kennedy's professional and personal records and tagged all key data, Mr Putnam explained.

Four major technology firms were involved. EMC Corp donated high-speed storage, Iron Mountain contributed secure computing facilities, AT&T provided hosting and networking for the new collection and Raytheon spearheaded project management.

The digital archives ensure that important documents are backed up electronically in high resolution, should anything happen to the physical records, said Mr Putnam.

The Kennedy library website typically garners three million hits a year, a number, Mr Putnam said, he expects to increase substantially after the launch of the digital archives.