A half-century has gone by since President John F. Kennedy declared his famous call to action on that frigid Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1961: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Next week, the Boston-based John F. Kennedy Library & Museum will mark the anniversary with a special event to commemorate the young president's short but historically significant time in office.
On Jan. 13, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero and Caroline Kennedy, president of her father's library foundation, introduced what is now the nation's largest online presidential archive at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.
Not only has the library's Website been upgraded with thousands of new documents, but it also sports an easier-to-use interface and search engine. The new archive itself is loaded with new document scans, audio tapes and videos comprising nearly 40TB worth of data.
As of the Jan. 13 launch, the archive contains about 200,000 document pages; 300 reels of audio tape, containing more than 1,245 individual recordings of telephone calls, speeches and meetings; 300 museum artifacts; 72 reels of film; and 1,500 photos.
The library's Website archive, built with a new cloud-based system, now provides global access to the most important papers, records, photographs and recordings of Kennedy's three years in office. Until Jan. 13, only a select few photos and documents were published on the Website; all the rest of the historical material had been available only by a personal visit to the library.
Students, teachers, researchers and members of the public now have a capable, Web-based connection to search, browse and retrieve original documents from the Kennedy Library's collection, gaining a first-hand look into the life of President Kennedy and the issues that defined his administration, Ferriero said at the Jan. 13 event.
"My parents believed that history is one of our greatest teachers," Caroline Kennedy said. "As young people increasingly rely on the Internet as their primary source for information, it is our hope that the library's online archive will allow a new generation to learn about this important chapter in American history.
"As they discover the heroes of the civil rights movement, the pioneers of outer space and the first Peace Corps volunteers, we hope they too are inspired to ask what they can do for their country."
Still much to publish
Even though there is nearly 40TB of data now stored, there is still a lot more to digitize and publish, JFK Library IT specialist Tim Fitzpatrick told eWEEK.
There are still about 48 million pages left to digitize before everything is online, and the library is always taking in new material. We won't see the completed collection online in our lifetimes.
"At our current rate," Fitzpatrick said, "it will take more than 100 years to get everything digitized."
The new archive is a project four years and $10 million in the making. Grad-level college librarian and archive interns have been scanning document after document, photo after photo since the project started in 2006. More than 100 boxes of JFK's personal and professional memos, letters, speeches, audio recordings, film and other artifacts have been scanned and stored into the institution's data center in Washington, D.C.
Hans Jensen of Iron Mountain carefully digitizes a film of President Kennedy for uploading to the new online archive. The mirror replication site is 200 feet underground in a secret, highly secure location. (Photo courtesy of Iron Mountain)