Oral History Program

Established in 1964 with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, the Oral History Program is one of the oldest continuing activities of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Modeled after the Columbia University oral history program, its goal is to collect, preserve, and make available interviews conducted with individuals who were associated with the legacy of John F. Kennedy. The tapes and transcripts are intended to supplement our archival holdings and are best used in conjunction with those materials.

The Library's Oral History collections comprise close to 1,600 interviews; please consult our OH collection overviews. The Library's main research room houses name and subject indexes to all open oral history interviews as well as print transcripts of open interviews – many of which may be borrowed via interlibrary loan. Researchers may also browse oral history interviews on our website, a growing number of which has been fully transcribed in electronic form.

For more information please contact Kennedy.Library@nara.gov or 617.514.1629.

Interview recordings and transcripts: policies on access, use, copyright, and donations

  • Many interview transcripts and some sound recordings are available for research at the Kennedy Library. Transcripts may be borrowed via interlibrary loan, and a growing number is also available on our website (see section below, "digital transcripts"). Please contact our Reference staff for more information.
  • In some cases, interview transcripts and recordings may be used only with the written permission of interviewees or their representatives. Library staff members do not act as agents or intermediaries for obtaining permissions though will assist researchers in submitting oral history permission request forms, as needed. Most donor addresses can be found in a current edition of Who's Who in America or other biographical directories; Library staff may be able to provide addresses for individuals not listed in these sources. For more information on securing permissions, please see our FAQ on access to "permission required" materials.
  • For every oral history interview, the transcript, and not the recording, is considered the final document of record. When recordings are available (not all are), researchers may listen to them for background information, though may quote from or cite the transcript, only.
  • Unless specific restrictions are included in the foreword to an interview transcript, researchers may quote, paraphrase, or cite the transcript in a publication. The preferred form of citation may be found here: citing and crediting library holdings.
  • Direct quotations from transcripts in which donors have retained copyright are limited to portions allowable under the "fair use" doctrine of the U.S. copyright law. Quotes exceeding fair use require the written permission of interviewees or their representatives; for more information, please consult our section on copyright of audiovisual materials.
  • Researchers who use the Oral History collections or other library holdings are encouraged to donate their resulting books, articles, research papers, dissertations, or theses to the Kennedy Library. The Library also welcomes the donation of tapes or transcripts of interviews conducted with close associates of President Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, or other relevant individuals. Learn more about our donation program, here: donating your materials.

Digital transcripts

A growing number of oral history interview transcripts has been digitized and made available on our website; you may search or browse them here: search or browse our collections.