An Experiment in Processing and Digitizing at the Same Time: The Personal Papers of Margaret Ronayne Hahn

by Stephanie Mokszychi, Graduate Student Intern (Simmons College GSLIS)

At the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, collections are frequently processed years before digital images and related metadata are available online. Typically, multiple archivists handle materials as they move through the processing, cataloging, and digitization steps. In a trial experiment, I was responsible for all three of these stages in addition to creating a finding aid for the Margaret Ronayne Hahn Personal Papers. The goal of this project was to determine if a new combined method was one that could be applied to future collections.

Before starting this project I consulted the processing manual to familiarize myself with the guidelines and procedures that the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and its parent institution, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), have in place. I then worked on a processing plan, consulting an initial inventory, checking the deed status and potential restrictions imposed by the donor, and surveying the extent of the collection. I created a basic structure for textual folders in Documentum, the digital asset management system (DAMS) at the Kennedy Library. As I scanned documents, digital files were stored in Documentum according to their digital identifiers.  In retrospect, scanning the collection before arranging it was probably a bit premature. The digital identifiers and order of the folders changed repeatedly as I moved things around and probably created more work than I needed to.

I was surprised to find how challenging arranging series could be. While the collection contained items related primarily to the senatorial and presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, there were a few objects that just didn’t quite fit with the rest. For example, contained in these papers was a road map of the state of Illinois. While I could infer from related materials that this was used during Hahn’s work on the 1960 presidential campaign, I could not include it in that series. There was no clear indication on the object itself that suggested this use and as a result I placed it in the General File. Several times I was faced with decisions like this; and it was only with the help of some more experienced archivists that I was able to create a logical series list.






Shoe repair receipt for John F. Kennedy. View digitized folder here:








I was also a little uneasy about discarding newspaper clippings. As an archivist and lover of old documents, it was tempting to keep everything that the Library accumulated. After talking with others, I soon realized that many newspapers are available in a number of other places and that it simply wasn’t necessary to keep them here as well. Instead, I scanned all the originals for online viewing and photocopied them on archival paper, which will hold up better over time. The digitized materials will eliminate the need for researchers to handle fragile documents and allow them to access information remotely.






Newspaper clipping, Rose Kennedy campaigns for John F. Kennedy in Xenia, Ohio. View digitized folder of material here:







Removing valuable materials was also an interesting part of processing this collection. Margaret Ronayne Hahn had several examples of correspondence with members of the Kennedy family in her personal papers, including letters of appreciation from Rose and John for her help on the 1960 presidential campaign, and thank you notes for her condolences on the loss of both John and Robert F. Kennedy. In order to ensure the safety of these materials, I photocopied the originals and replaced them in the open folders. I then created parallel folders to house the original materials. These items will be stored separately to guarantee their safekeeping.



Thank you note signed by Robert F. Kennedy to Margaret (Maggie) Hahn. View digitized folder of material here:








Thank you note signed by Rose Kennedy to Margaret (Maggie) Hahn. View digitized folder of material here:






The biggest challenge I found when engaging in this project was simply finding a space to accommodate all my roles. I needed a computer capable of accessing the DAMS, the Kennedy Library website, and the shared drive where materials and templates that document processing and scanning decisions are stored. Unfortunately, the computers that are currently set up to scan do not have this capability. I found myself switching between available work stations when I needed to create transfer sheets or document over-sized items. It was also difficult finding physical space to label and re-folder materials. A larger table or desk would have been an improvement and limited the amount of piles that accumulated around me. Overall, though, these problems were very minor and the entire experience went quite smoothly.

After completing digitization and finalizing the description, the finding aid to the Margaret Ronayne Hahn Personal Papers was published online. It can be found here:

I found the experience to be incredibly useful and I hope the Kennedy Library extends it to future interns. It was beneficial to see the entire process, from processing to web publication, and gain a better understanding of what goes into making a collection available. I scanned photographs and consulted the Audiovisual Reference unit on sound recordings, reviewed donor records, and wrote a finding aid–all skills that I would not have otherwise gained. I value what my colleagues and peers are working on, and appreciate their hard work each step of the way. Working on the Margaret Ronayne Hahn collection has also reaffirmed my excitement for the profession. There are fascinating materials hidden in collections all over and we in the archival profession can share them with the world.



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Personal Recollections of Corinne “Lindy” Boggs

by Sarah Jennette, Graduate Student Intern (Simmons College GSLIS)

The Oral History Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library includes an interview with Corinne “Lindy” Boggs, a notable member of the House of Representatives from Louisiana and a longtime friend of the Kennedy family. Sadly, Boggs passed away at her home in Maryland on Saturday, July 30th at the age of 97, leaving behind a prodigious legacy in politics that spanned several decades.

Prior to her own political career on Capitol Hill, Lindy Boggs supported her husband, Thomas Hale Boggs, who served as a congressional representative from Louisiana from 1941 until 1943. Hale Boggs served again in 1947, eventually becoming House Majority Leader until his death in 1972, when a plane in which he was traveling disappeared over Alaska. Following this tragic incident, Lindy Boggs was chosen by special election to fill her husband’s vacant spot, becoming the first woman from the state of Louisiana to be elected to Congress, a position she held for nine consecutive terms. In 1976, she was also the first woman to preside over the Democratic National Convention.

U.S. Congressional Representative from Louisiana Thomas Hale Boggs visiting President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office along with his wife, Lindy Boggs, and two other unidentified women. White House, Washington D.C., November 5, 1963 [WHP-ST-C380-2-63]

U.S. Congressional Representative from Louisiana Thomas Hale Boggs visiting President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office along with his wife, Lindy Boggs, his mother, and his mother-in-law. White House, Washington D.C., November 5, 1963. [JFKWHP-ST-C380-2-63]

Boggs’s career included the championing of many progressive programs and legislation—perhaps most notably those related to women’s equality and civil rights. She fought for women’s access to equal pay and financial security throughout the course of her congressional career and strongly supported civil rights legislation, despite the risk of incurring criticism from her Southern constituency.

Within her oral history interview, Lindy Boggs speaks at length about her and her husband’s friendship with the Kennedys, as well as her behind-the-scenes work as a political wife for the Democratic Party at that time. She gives voice to the experiences of other political wives and women in Washington, calling them “a remarkable lot” for the work they accomplished, diving head first into projects for fundraising and philanthropy, political campaign support, as well as other civic engagement efforts in the arts and entertainment. Perhaps not surprisingly, Boggs acknowledged that her work as a political wife prior to her husband’s death prepared her for her own time in Congress. The relationships and friendships she made while following his career became vital to her successful transition into politics, and she acknowledged feeling “privileged” to have supporters all around her.

One of Boggs’s major contributions during the Kennedy years was her role as co-chair of the inaugural ball planning committee. The committee was tasked with overseeing not only the celebratory pageantry of the gala, but also its business side as a major fundraising event in Washington. In her oral history interview, Boggs tells the story of how she, ironically, missed the inauguration of President Kennedy because of last-minute logistical problems caused by a massive snowstorm in Washington the night before, threatening to interfere with ticket distribution for the inaugural ball.

Lindy Boggs remained a representative in Congress until 1991. In 1997, President Clinton elected her as the United States Ambassador to the Holy See, a position she held for six years. Her death represents the passing of an era, and we are honored to hold a piece of her important legacy in the Archives of the Kennedy Library.

Lindy Boggs’s oral history interview can be found here:

Her daughter is the noted journalist, author, and NPR senior analyst, Cokie Roberts.



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“Archiving Your Peace Corps History”: A Presentation at the 2013 Peace Corps Connect Conference

by Christina Lehman Fitzpatrick, Processing Archives Technician

Cover of Peace Corps First Annual Report to Congress, 1962

Cover of Peace Corps First Annual Report to Congress, 1962

I was pleased to participate in the Peace Corps Connect conference held in Boston on June 28-29. This event was the second annual gathering of the National Peace Corps Association. Because President Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, the Kennedy Library has several archival collections pertaining to the agency and its work. Our largest collection is the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Collection, which contains original documents and archival materials created or received by volunteers during their official tours of duty, with an emphasis on the period of the Kennedy Administration. I am a processing archivist who has worked on the RPCV Collection for several years now, so I was glad to accept an invitation to speak at the conference and to meet some of these extraordinary volunteers in person.

My co-presenter for the workshop was Susan McElrath, the university archivist at American University, home of the newly-launched Peace Corps Community Archive. Our session was titled “Archiving Your Peace Corps History.” We discussed how RPCVs can develop a personal collection of items documenting their Peace Corps service; provided tips for preserving and storing these materials; talked about the process of donating personal materials to an archival repository; and reviewed the collecting scopes of each of our respective Peace Corps collections. Some of  following information may be of interest to our readers and to other potential donors of personal archives.

What should a personal Peace Corps archive contain?

When gathering your important documents, consider what journalists call the “Five Ws”: who, what, where, when, and why. Documents that answer these questions will form the foundation of your collection. Prioritize primary-source material, that is, material that is directly relevant to your own personal work and experiences. Primary-source material is the most informative because it provides a first-hand account of your service. Usually these are items you created yourself – such as letters you wrote or pictures you took – but sometimes they can also be items you used extensively, such as project manuals, or items created by other volunteers, such as a local Peace Corps newsletter. Consider whether you have any correspondence, diaries, training syllabi, rosters, directories, reports, plans, scrapbooks, slides, or videos from your service.

Organizing your personal archive

Sorting and labeling your materials will allow you to gain control over the collection. Start by grouping similar types of materials together. For example, it is helpful to have all of your correspondence together in chronological or alphabetical order. Once you have organized your materials, place them in folders and label the folders with titles and date ranges, such as “Letters from home, 1961-1963.” Create an inventory of your collection by typing up a simple list of folder titles. You can also provide supplemental information if the context of certain items might not be clear to others. Photographs, especially, can benefit from adding a caption that describes the event and date and lists the names of people pictured.

Preserving your personal archive

The key to making sure your collection lasts as long as possible is a neutral storage environment. There are several things you can do to protect your materials. Try to keep the temperature and humidity as stable as possible because major fluctuations will cause items to deteriorate more quickly. Ideal conditions are a temperature between 68-70 degrees and relative humidity between 40-45 percent, but these benchmarks can be very difficult to achieve. The most important thing is to avoid storing your materials in the attic or the basement, where temperature/humidity fluctuations tend to be greatest. Always store your boxes on shelves instead of on the floor to prevent water damage from floods or leaks.

President Kennedy greets first Peace Corps volunteers in the Rose Garden, Aug. 28, 1961 [JFKWHP-KN-C18661]

President Kennedy greets first Peace Corps Volunteers in the Rose Garden, Aug. 28, 1961 [JFKWHP-KN-C18661]

Light and dust are also damaging, so materials should be stored in folders or boxes. Use archival-quality supplies if you can afford them. Look for boxes and folders that are acid-free. To store photographs, look for products that have passed the Photographic Activity Test (PAT), which checks for chemicals that react with photos.

Exercise caution when handling fragile materials. The principle to keep in mind is “first, do no harm.” Avoid making non-reversible changes to your documents. For example, do not repair tears with Scotch tape. If you have to write on an item, use pencil, not pen. Instead of writing directly on the document, consider making notes on a separate piece of paper and file it in the same location. If you notice that rusty staples or paperclips are staining paper items, carefully remove them.

To ensure long-term access to digital files, make multiple copies and store them on a variety of media. For example, put one copy on a CD and also back one up on a removable hard drive. Since file formats change frequently, plan to transfer your files before they become outdated and unreadable. Using common formats such as PDF for text documents and MP3 or WAV for audio files will aid long-term readability.

Do-it-yourself or donate?

Caring for your personal collection is rewarding but it can also be quite labor-intensive. Consider your audience and your goals for maintaining this material; do you want to share your story with your immediate family or with the entire world?  Donating your items to an archival repository will make them publicly accessible to researchers seeking to understand the importance of the Peace Corps through history. You have many choices when determining where to donate your materials: a local historical society in your home town, the archives of your alma mater, or a repository that specifically collects Peace Corps materials. One benefit of donating your collection to an archive that has other Peace Corps collections is that it is already a destination for researchers, which will improve the likelihood of your materials being used on a regular basis.

What to expect when donating

If you wish to donate your material to an archival repository, first make a list of exactly what you want to send. Submit this information to the archivist with your contact information including country and dates of service. Please do not mail your material before contacting the staff with your donation inquiry; unsolicited donations may be returned. Once your donation is accepted, there is some paperwork to complete. Most archives require that you sign a deed of gift agreement to legally formalize the transfer of ownership. Executing a deed is in the best interests of both the donor and the repository, as it establishes the relationship between the two parties and documents the legal status of the materials. It also provides rules for the administration and use of the collection, and documents ownership of intellectual property rights; the Kennedy Library’s strong preference is for donors to transfer all intellectual property rights (copyright) that they hold in the materials, to the United States, making them pubic domain (PD).

Once your materials are accessioned into the archives, they will be available for research. If your collection contains sensitive information that should not be made public, be sure to mention this to the archivist during the donation process. Most archives routinely screen incoming materials for privacy concerns, such as personal medical or financial information, but it is very helpful if the donor points out specific issues in their papers. Access restrictions can also be specified in your deed of gift, though we encourage donors to open as much material as they possibly can; reviewing archivists will close any materials that infringe on the privacy rights of other individuals.

Peace Corps collections at the Kennedy Library and American University

First Group of Peace Corps Volunteers, First Annual Report to Congress, 1962

First Group of Peace Corps Volunteers, First Annual Report to Congress, 1962 [JFKPOF-086-003-p0021]

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Collection at the Kennedy Library collects original documents and archival materials created or received by volunteers during their official tours of duty. Our current collecting policy focuses on the period from 1961 to 1963, the years of the Kennedy Administration. Donations of material created after 1963 may also be considered but are subject to the approval of the Director and Chief Archivist on a case-by-case basis. For more information, please review our donation policies.

The Kennedy Library is also home to the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Archival Project, an oral history initiative. Spearheaded by the late Bob Klein (RPCV Ghana I, 1961-1963), the project began recording oral history interviews with returned volunteers in the late 1990s. Since then, nearly 500 interviews have been completed and added to the collection. The scope of the oral history project is is not limited to the years of the Kennedy Administration. We are very grateful to Bob, and now to Phyllis Noble (RPCV Nigeria, 1965-1967), for their extraordinary efforts in building this marvelous collection.

The Peace Corps Community Archive at American University collects, exhibits, and provides educational and public programs that document the experiences and impact of individuals who served in the Peace Corps, and that of individuals and institutions in host countries. There are no limitations on format, date of service, or country. The institution also collects the organizational records of National Peace Corp Association member groups. For more information, please review the donation policies for the collection.




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Five Hemingway Scrapbooks Digitized and Available Online for the First Time

 by Jessica Green and Tiffany Link, Graduate Student Interns (Simmons College and Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Scrapbook1 cover_Page_0

Cover of Mother’s Scrapbook 1

Grace Hall Hemingway created and annotated five scrapbooks to document her son Ernest’s first eighteen years of life, long before he became a Nobel Prize-winning author. These unique scrapbooks include countless photographs of the Hemingway family and their friends both on vacation at their cottage in Michigan and at their home in Oak Park, Illinois. There are also many of young Hemingway’s letters, childhood drawings, homework assignments, and brochures from plays and events he attended. These scrapbooks are a valuable resource not only for Hemingway scholars, but for those interested in early 20th century life as well.

The first two scrapbooks were digitized in 2007 and the scrapbooks in digital form have been available for research in the John F. Kennedy Library for the last few years. During her 2012 summer internship in the Audiovisual Department at the JFK Library, Tiffany Link digitized scrapbook volumes 3, 4, and 5. There is a sixth scrapbook made by Grace Hall for Ernest’s grandparents (Grandparents’ Scrapbook) that has yet to be digitized.

The fragile condition of these scrapbooks has limited access to them by researchers in the past. Fortunately, Tiffany’s work last summer allows researchers to now view the scrapbooks in digital form on our website. The digitized versions allow researchers access to the information contained in the scrapbooks without causing harm to the delicate artifacts that might occur by handling them. PDFs of all five scrapbooks are now available for download on our website. High resolution images are also available at the library for viewing. To make an appointment to view the digital scrapbooks or other photographs in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, please email or call the reference line at 617-514-1622. In the future, the scrapbook images will be available through the library’s Digital Asset Management System (DAMS) with complete metadata.

Though the actual digitization process took nine weeks last summer, the effort was years in the making. Several years ago, audiovisual archivist James Hill and a former Hemingway Department intern, Alyssa Pacy, photographed the scrapbooks, creating 4×5 negatives for each page and each page of any inserts. The digital images were created from the 4×5 negatives. The first two weeks of the current digitization effort were spent organizing the 440 negatives and assigning each image a digital identifier. The next five weeks involved scanning each of the negatives. The last two weeks were spent identifying individuals in the newly scanned photographs and letters.

We Need Your Help Solving Mysteries!

While most photographs included caption information, some were blank or identified people with the infamous Hemingway family nicknames. We are hoping there is someone out there who can help us complete the collection by identifying some of the unknown individuals!

1. Who is Sue? She is pictured alongside Sunny (Hemingway’s sister Madeleine) in the following photos in Scrapbooks 3 and 4. Is she his sister Ursula or somebody else?



Four Kids and a dog (Sunny + Sue) April 1908
Scrapbook 3 p. 84, EH10440P


EH10495P  &  EH10496P

Sunny & Sue June 1910
Scrapbook 4 p. 17, EH10495P & EH10496P


2. The baby pictured in the image below looks similar to Hemingway’s sister Carol in the top image, but the caption identifies her as Don. Are they the same baby or different? Who is Don?


3 mo[nth] old Carol; Little Don in her nest 3 mo[nth] old
Scrapbook 4 p. 45, EH6216P & EH10529P


Tiffany Link is a student at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She worked as an intern in the audiovisual reference unit during the summer of 2012.

Jessica Green is a student at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College. From February 2012 to June 2013 she was an intern working with the Ernest Hemingway Collection.



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Newly Digitized Material: Subject Series of the National Security Files

by Kelly Francis, Assistant Digital Archivist for Textual Collections

The National Security Files (NSF) is one of the most popular collections requested by researchers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. A rich collection, the NSF is a sub-file of the Presidential Papers of John F. Kennedy and the working files of McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

The Subjects series of the NSF was recently digitized and is now available online via the Kennedy Library’s website: (click on “View Collection Content” at bottom of page).

The series consists of 23 boxes of material covering numerous topics including: the Alliance for Progress, the balance of payments, civil defense, foreign aid, nuclear weapons, background information for speeches by President Kennedy, space exploration, trade, and the United Nations. Below is a sampling of newly-available digital documents:






Page one of a memorandum regarding the Soviet Union’s media coverage of civil rights in the United States.

View the rest of the memorandum here:










A memorandum on security protocol for people traveling with President Kennedy.

View digitized folder of material here:









Probable votes on a moratorium against recognizing Communist China in the United Nations.                                                                     

View digitized folder of material here:








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