John F. Kennedy Library in Boston
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is the presidential library and museum of the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. It is located on Columbia Point in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, next to the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Archives. It was designed by the architect I. M. Pei. The building is the official repository for original papers and correspondence of the Kennedy Administration, as well as special bodies of published and unpublished materials, such as books and papers by and about Ernest Hemingway. The library and museum were dedicated in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and members of the Kennedy family. It can be reached from nearby Interstate 93 or via shuttle bus from the JFK/UMass stop on the Boston subway's Red line.
Location, design and dedication
Original site and name
During a weekend visit to Boston on October 19, 1963, President Kennedy, along with John Carl Warnecke — the architect who would design the President’s tomb in Arlington — viewed several locations offered by Harvard as a site for the library and museum. At the time there were only four other Presidential Libraries: the Hoover Presidential Library, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, the Truman Library, and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library. They were all scattered around the country in small towns from New York to Iowa. Kennedy had not decided on any design concept yet, but he felt that the existing Presidential Libraries were placed too far “away from scholarly resources.”
The death of the President was still fresh in the hearts and minds of the American public and by March of that year $4.3 million had been pledged, including 18,727 unsolicited donations from the public. Large donations came from the Hispanic world with Venezuela pledging $100,000 and Governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Muñoz Marín offering the same. The oral-history project also began recording, starting with Mrs. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Originally projected to consist of interviews with 150 people, 178 had agreed to participate and the total number of expected participants doubled to 300, with just one person declining to take part, a Secret Service agent. The next day the Indian Ambassador to the United States, Braj Kumar Nehru presented Mr. Black with a check for $100,000 during a ceremony at the River Club. Mr. Nehru said that the Indian people were hit by a “sad blow” when the President died, and that they held him “in the highest regard, esteem and affection.” He desired for Indian students abroad in the US to utilize the library, at the time, still planned for construction at Harvard along the banks of the Charles River.
Pei selected as architect
On December 13, 1964, the Kennedy family announced that I.M. Pei was unanimously chosen by a subcommittee as the architect of the library. Even though Pei was relatively unknown amongst the list of candidates, Mrs. Kennedy, who viewed him as filled with promise and imagination and after spending several months inspecting the many architects’ offices and creations, selected him to create the vision she held for the project. Pei did not have a design yet, but the idea as described by Robert Kennedy was to “stimulate interest in politics.” Meanwhile, the suggestion that Harvard may not be a suitable site for the library had begun cropping up. When asked if Pei may have had to start from scratch, he said this was the case. With an “encouraging grin” Robert Kennedy simply wished Mr. Pei “Good luck.”
Years of setbacks
In January 1966, when Massachusetts Governor John A. Volpe signed a bill allowing the state to purchase the land for the site — an old train yard belonging to the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority — it was expected that the project would be complete by 1970. The original design was a large complex comprising the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and an Institute of Politics. Only now could Pei prepare a six-month study of the site’s soil, and he said the “money we had six years ago, today will barely pay for 60 percent of the original plans.” The first in a series of installments expected to total $5 million, came from the profits of the book The Death of a President which caused a bitter feud between the Kennedys and Manchester. Mrs. Kennedy remarked “I think it is so beautiful what Mr. Manchester did. I am glad that Senator Kennedy knew about it before he died.”
On May 22, 1971, President Kennedy’s Vice President and successor, Lyndon B. Johnson saw the dedication of his Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. On the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, and next to the LBJ School of Public Affairs, he would beat the Kennedy team to building the first Presidential Library that also served as a place of scholarly research. He would not live to see work begin on his predecessor's.
Meanwhile, the Cambridge community was in fierce opposition to having the library being built in Cambridge at all. Although originally welcomed in 1965, the library was now seen as a great attractor of over a million annual tourists who would change the neighborhood with “hordes of tourists, automobiles, fast-food franchises and souvenir shops,” as well as cause a negative environmental impact. One neighborhood group would file a Federal suit demanding that the General Services Administration study, which found that the great number of visitors would have “no adverse effect on the area,” be reexamined. The site was originally a garbage dump, Pei recalls finding old refrigerators and appliances under the soil. In all seriousness, he asserted that one could toss a lit match on the earth and watch the ground ignite as the soil emitted methane gas. which more than 225 construction workers worked to complete before the end of 1979. He spoke of openly weeping upon hearing about the death of Kennedy, something that he had not done since his own father died, ten years before. Afterwards, he accepted the library “on behalf of the American people”
Critics generally liked the finished building, but the architect himself was unsatisfied. The years of conflict and compromise had changed the nature of the design, and Pei felt that the final result lacked its original passion. "I wanted to give something very special to the memory of President Kennedy," he said in 2000. "It could and should have been a great project." Perhaps the most important consequence of the Kennedy project for Pei was his elevation in the public's consciousness as an architect of note. Pei considered the John F. Kennedy Library "the most important commission in my life". Outside the library during the spring, summer and fall is Kennedy's sailboat, Victura.
The audiovisual archives contain over 400,000 still photographs taken from 1863–1984, over 7.5 million feet (2.29×106 m) of film shot between 1910–83, and 11,000 reels of audio recordings from 1910–85.
Begun in 1964, the oral-history project was a unique undertaking to document and preserve interviews with those associated with Kennedy. Initially expected to have about 150 participants, It is modelled after a program by the Columbia University Oral History Research Office, the worlds oldest, which began in 1948.
- Wedding dress of Jacqueline Bouvier
- von Boehm, Gero. Conversations with I.M. Pei: Light is the Key. Munich: Prestel, 2000. .
- Wiseman, Carter. I.M. Pei: A Profile in American Architecture. New York: H.N. Abrams, 2001. .