Review: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Digital Archive

For the second time this month, I’m going to try something different.  Because last week and this weekend have been too busy for me to write a new post and the only completed ones on hand are history and I’m due for a library or archive themed post, I decided to post an edited down version of a digital library review I once did for my Digital Libraries course.  That said, this post will actually appeal to librarians, archivists, history-lovers, and the general public, each in a different way.

The  John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum’s Digital Archive, is a Mecca of information.  The mission of the Digital Archive is:

A public-private partnership between the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. The objectives are to digitize, index and retain permanently millions of presidential documents, photographs and audiovisual recordings; provide online accessibility to a worldwide audience; search collections using metadata; protect historical assets through remote replication; and minimize wear and tear on irreplaceable physical assets.

The JFK Digital Archive, as shown above, has a grand mission.  Its website mentions it can be used for “private study, scholarship, or research.”  Besides papers related directly to the Kennedy administration, items pertaining to that era of American history and the JFK Library-housed Ernest Hemingway papers are also included.  As such, it has been made to benefit the whole of society, American or not, who wish to utilize the records.  The Digital Archive also cooperates with other institutions, including the National Archives and Records Administration.

Research Home Screen fort he JFK  Digital Library

Research Home Screen fort he JFK Digital Library

The JFK Digital Archive contains multiple media types added by the JFK Library and NARA.  It contains “as of January 2011 [it] contain[s] over 200,000 pages of textual documents, 1,500 photographs, 1,240 audio files, 80 moving image files, and almost 300 museum artifacts.” The goal of the project is to digitize all collections at the library in complete and make them available.

The digital material is organized into collections, right down to the file level for text and photographic documents and item level for audio and visual material.  When digital versions are not available, finding aids are provided to the physical collection.  When digital versions are available, pointers are made to the physical object via accession number and collection title.  This allows collections to be looked up via finding aids on the website and/or in person at the library.

The JFK Digital Archive provides great, open access service.  The main screen defaults to a basic search.  Below the basic search, options are provided for advanced searches and browsing.  Basic searches are keyword searches which attempt to predict what you type in.  For example, typing simply “Cuban” causes “Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962” to pop up in a drop menu that appears underneath the search box.  Advance search allows the search to be limited via object type, selected date ranges, and selected from various other properties, including title, series, collection, folder title, contributor, and about a dozen more options.  If digitized content is available, it is noted in the aid and one can link to it.  In all searches, to the right is a list of recommended related content and to the left are facets for further narrowing searches.  Finally, a link to ready reference material, including timelines, legislative summaries, and more, is provided from the main search screen.

The technology behind the JFK Digital Archive has been well thought out.  There are two EMC Cenera servers.  One resides at the JFK Library in Boston while the back-up server is housed Pennsylvania.  While master files are housed on these servers, lower resolution files are also stored at the library for use at the library and on the internet.  EMC’s Celerra NS-120 with Captiva InputAccel and Documentum is the hardware used for scanning.  Raytheon wrote the programs for the system architecture and integration and created a “road map” for the technical system over time.  AT&T provides the telecommunications bandwidth for both the library itself and duplicate copies locations.  The search engine is provided courtesy of Endeca.  Velir Studios helped build the website on its Sitecore CMS platform.  IBM built a module to highlight pieces from the archive on the library’s main site.  Lastly, security of all this programming and data is accounted for.  Iron Mountain provides protection and disaster recovery via its highly secure, underground server  facility.

Metadata standards were established for the project.  Text documents and photographs were saved in master files at 600dpi as TIFF files.  Text documents were compressed with LZW compression.  In both cases, JPEGS are used as the web file.  Master audio recordings were saved as .wav at 96 kHz/24 bits while reference versions were made available in mp3 format.  Videos were saved as .jpeg2000files at 730×486 pixels and thirty frames per second for master files and web versions were saved as .mpeg4h files with 640×480 resolution.

The interface of the JFK Digital Archive was equally thought out.  By providing three searching interfaces, the Digital Archive managed to cover users of all expertise.  The casual user may prefer the basic search, but the advance search caters to researchers.  Browsing allows researchers or patrons of any type to feel like they are still using paper aids.  Interaction on the searching varies.  The basic search attempts to be a federated keyword search, as it predicts what you are typing.  The advance search allows a variety of criteria and limiters to be imposed while using keywords to search.  All of this ensures the highest quality of service.

The JFK Digital Archive manages to address many digital library problems with finesse.  Realizing that file types can change, master files are created that can easily be converted to other formats.  Also, the Digital Archive realized the need to create multiple back-ups and separate the used versions of the images from the master files, thus lessening the chance that use of files would corrupt the data.  This allows for new images to be created as needed.  Also, it is realized that the files are scanned to make them accessible, not just to preserve them.  Thus, preservation is not the only goal and originals are kept.  There is even notation that when in doubt with a digital media, to contact the library about the original.

Does anyone have any questions?

Disclaimer: All information is from the JFK Presidential Library and Museum’s website.

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6 thoughts on “Review: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Digital Archive

  1. Pingback: Review: John F. Kennedy Library Presidential and Museum Digital Archive | kjmhoffman

  2. Pingback: Review: Double Cross | Amy's Scrap Bag: A Blog About Libraries, Archives, and History

  3. Pingback: Review: John F. Kennedy Library Presidential and Museum Digital Archive | jkmhoffman

  4. Pingback: Review: John F. Kennedy Library Presidential and Museum Digital Archive | jkmhoffman

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