Thousands of Kennedy documents go online

BOSTON (Reuters Life!) - Thousands of documents, photos and even recorded phone conversations of President John F. Kennedy are going online and available to a whole new generation of high-tech armchair historians.

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The online digital archive of the 35th U.S. president was unveiled on Thursday by the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston.

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 of Americans. (It offers) a fuller sense of the man.”

It took four years to digitize the artifacts, photos and videos, and the process is ongoing, said 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, Putnam said.

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, Putnam said.

The Kennedy library website typically garners 3 million hits a year, a number Putnam said he expects to increase substantially after the launch of the digital archives.

A previous special exhibit about the historic moon landing and Kennedy’s efforts to advance the space program saw 8 million hits in a matter of days, he said.

Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Ellen Wulfhorst