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-source 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., for example.
Drafts of Kennedy’s speeches show how he was writing and editing along with speechwriter Theodore Sorensen, giving people a sense of the president’s power as a writer, Putnam said.
“It truly democratizes history,” Putnam said. “We’re really hopeful it can work both for a young person and for the most serious scholar.”
Also on Jan. 13, 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 Jan. 14 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.”
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum