John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library


Columbia Point
MA 02125
United States


+1 617-514-1600


+1 617-514-1652


On September 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy wrote the Archivist of the United States to ask him to consult with White House staff and representatives of Harvard University concerning establishment of a Presidential library in Cambridge, Massachusetts. President Kennedy announced then that he would follow precedents set by Presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower, and give his papers and memorabilia to the National Archives for a Presidential Library.

A month before his death, President Kennedy visited Cambridge, Massachusetts, and chose a site next to Harvard University for the Library. It was to be the place where the records of his Presidency could be kept and where he would have his office when he retired from public life.

Plans for the Kennedy Library began to take shape in December 1963, when members of President Kennedy's family met with several of his closest associates to discuss a suitable memorial. While many suggestions were offered by people in all parts of the country, Mrs. Kennedy and the other members of President Kennedy's family decided that the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum should be the only official national memorial to the President.

They also agreed that the project should have three parts: a Museum, an Archive, and an educational Institute that would carry forward President Kennedy's interest in bridging the gap between the academic world and the world of public affairs.

The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Inc.—a private, non-profit corporation—was chartered in Massachusetts on December 5, 1963, to construct and equip a library in Massachusetts to house and preserve the papers and historical materials of John F. Kennedy and his associates, and to transfer title of these to the United States as elements of a Presidential archival depository.

Among the Corporation's many responsibilities were the raising and management of all building funds, the selection of the Library site, the appointment of the architect and exhibit designers, the selection of the general contractor, and the actual supervision of all construction.

The Kennedy Library Corporation, under the leadership of Stephen E. Smith, raised more than $20.8 million for both the construction of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and for the creation and endowment of an Institute at Harvard for the study of politics and public affairs.

In 1966, the Kennedy Library Corporation presented Harvard University with an $8 million endowment for the creation of the Institute of Politics. A living memorial to President John F. Kennedy, the Institute was created to complement the work of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum by helping to inspire the ideals of democracy and freedom in young people all over the world. Harvard University's Institute of Politics seeks to unite students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policymakers on a non-partisan basis and to stimulate and nurture their interest in public service and leadership. The Institute also strives to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic world and the world of politics and public affairs.

The General Services Administration established the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in temporary quarters in the Federal Archives and Records Center in Waltham, Massachusetts on October 1, 1969, and at that time announced the opening of the first portions of the Presidential papers for research use.

In 1975, the Kennedy Library Corporation abandoned plans to build the library on the site at Harvard University originally selected by President Kennedy due to prolonged delays in freeing the site for construction and opposition by some Cambridge residents who feared urban congestion caused by visitors and tourists.

The Library Corporation selected a new site for the library adjacent to the Harbor Campus of the University of Massachusetts Boston at Columbia Point in Dorchester. The 9.5 acre, waterfront site with panoramic views of Boston's skyline and Harbor Islands was donated to the Kennedy Library Corporation by the University of Massachusetts Boston with the consent of the state legislature.

Ground breaking for the dramatic Kennedy Library building designed by I. M. Pei took place on June 12, 1977. The building was completed and dedicated in October 1979.

Mandates/Sources of Authority

The Kennedy Library Corporation transferred title of the completed library to the United States National Archives and Records Administration on October 20, 1979 at a dedication ceremony attended by President Jimmy Carter.

In 1984, the work of the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library Corporation was reorganized and incorporated under Massachusetts law as the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum continue to be a model of a public/private partnership. While the Kennedy Library and Museum receives an annual federal appropriation for building maintenance and a portion of its personnel costs, the appropriation from Congress provides less than half of the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum's annual budget. The balance is provided by fees generated by admission to the Museum, the Museum Store, and the use of the Library's meeting facilities; and through the generosity of thousands of private individuals, corporations and foundations who donate money and in-kind services to the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

The strong financial support and creative resources provided by the Kennedy Library Foundation enable the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to further advance the study and understanding of President Kennedy's life and career and the times in which he lived, and to promote a greater appreciation of America's political and cultural heritage, the process of governing and the importance of public service.

Records Management and Collecting Policies

The Library acquires, preserves, arranges, describes, and provides access to primary-source materials in all formats that document the life, career, and times of John F. Kennedy, and the work of the Kennedy Administration and its impact on the public.

More information on the JFK Library's collection policy can be found here.

Finding Aids, Guides, and Publication

Opening Times

The Archives main research room is currently open for textual and photographic research Tuesday through Friday (9 am to 3 pm) by appointment only. NO WALK IN VISITS WILL BE PERMITTED.

The Museum is open Thursday - Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed on Wednesdays).

Conditions of Access

  • An appointment to visit the research room must be made at least 24 hours in advance.
  • Current regulations allow for 50% room capacity (6 researchers per day).
  • Appointments are for one individual; no groups will be permitted.
  • Researchers may book one appointment at a time, after requesting a list of boxes requested for each visit.
  • Those interested in on-site research must email with the subject line: “Research appointment request.” We are not accepting appointment requests via phone at this time.
  • An archivist will work with you over email to discuss your project and determine if on-site access to undigitized archival materials is necessary.
  • The researcher must supply a list of up to 18 boxes they would like to view during each visit. Researchers who do not send a box list at least 24 hours in advance will not receive an appointment or be permitted entry to the research room.

Further procedures upon arrival can be found here.


Find the full accessibility plan here.

Research Services

To submit an online inquiry, please use the research request form provided here. For more information, please contact

Reproduction Services

The Kennedy Library provides photocopy and digital reproduction services at fees set by the National Archives (see fee schedules below); the library asks that all fees be paid in advance of processing orders. Self-service photocopying of textual materials is also available in the Main Research Room at a reduced rate (currently $0.25 per page).

The Kennedy Library now provides digitization-on-demand services for both textual and audiovisual collections. In the case of textual collections, employees scan entire folders rather than single documents – a process that is generally faster, cheaper, and more preservation-friendly than the photocopy service (see photocopy and digitization fees below). The scanned folders are delivered to researchers electronically (as pdfs) and then made freely available on the website. JFK Library strongly encourages researchers to make use of the Library's digitization-on-demand service.

Policies and rates can be found here.


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