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JFK Library Unveils Digital Archive

January 28, 2011

Photo: JFK Library

On January 13th, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum unveiled “the nation’s largest online digitized presidential archive.”  This collection contains important records, photographs, recordings, papers, and other materials from the President’s days in office, and gives the public unprecedented access to materials formerly housed deep inside the Boston library.

The search functions are fairly sleek and intuitive, including both a faceted navigation system and an advanced search.  However, it is clear that this is a digital archive very much tied to a physical archive.  It is not made extremely clear at the outset that not all material listed in the digital archive is actually available digitally; one is often directed to a finding aid describing the contents of a collection but not the collection itself.  This is not to say that this archive is a not extremely valuable, it is just to say that there is a good deal of disappointment involved when search results include items which are not actually digitized, and when there is no way to exclude these items from the search.

Despite frustration with the lack of this search functionality, there is no question that other presidential libraries should follow suit, and continue to work towards providing the American public with access to important information about their leaders.

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