JFK Library to start largest converted digital archive

It took four years to digitize the 285,000 documents

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library is preparing to launch the largest online presidential digital archive ever created from pre-digital formats. It took more than four years to digitize its 285,000 documents, photographs, audiotape and films.

David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, and Caroline Kennedy, the foundation's president, will officially debut the archive in Washington on Jan. 13 as part of the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s inauguration this month.

The project has cost more than $6.5 million, with funding and assistance primarily from EMC Corp., AT&T Inc., Iron Mountain Inc. and Raytheon Co.


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The Kennedy online library is said to be the largest to be converted from pre-digital formats. The most recent presidential libraries have much more substantial digital holdings, including George W. Bush’s, which contains 200 million e-mail messages, and Bill Clinton’s, which has 20 million e-mail messages.

The Kennedy digital archive includes 200,000 pages of text, 1,245 individual recordings, 300 museum artifacts, 72 reels of moving images and 1,500 photos that have been digitized, described and loaded electronically, according to a Jan. 6 news release from the National Archives and Records Administration.

The archive will be made accessible through the Kennedy library’s website.

NARA administers a nationwide network of 13 presidential libraries. Under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, records that involve official duties of the president are considered the property of the federal government. Those records are preserved in the libraries, with help from private donors.

To support digitization of the Kennedy archive, EMC provided critical storage and content management software to house the archive as well as a mirrored second copy of the archive, according to the library’s website.

AT&T provided networks to connect information centers and host the library website; Iron Mountain offered disaster recovery protection of the digitized records as well as the digitization of audio and moving image records; and Raytheon helped design the system integration and the unified architecture for the archive, the library said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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