In a move that will make primary-source documents more accessible for students, Caroline Kennedy unveiled the nation’s first online presidential archive on Jan. 13, a $10 million project to digitize the most important papers, photographs, and recordings of President John F. Kennedy’s days in office. Users can browse 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. Archivists digitized more than 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. 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. 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.

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Jeff Festa