Below are helpful tips for searching the Kennedy Library's archival holdings – including collection descriptions, collection finding aids (guides), and, digitized collection content, where available. Learn more about the Library's digital collections.

The archives' online catalog is powered by Oracle's Endeca search application. Endeca works by refining and displaying records relevant to your search criteria. It searches metadata – collection abstracts, finding aids, and other descriptive information about the Library's holdings. In the case of Advanced Search, Endeca searches all digitized documents and oral history interview transcripts, as well.

There are three primary ways in which to conduct or refine your search: Keyword Search, Faceted Browsing, and Advanced Search. All may be used in tandem.

Please keep in mind that many of the Kennedy Library's collections have yet to be digitized. If your keyword search does not retrieve the specific documents you seek, it may retrieve, for instance, the titles of folders in a collection that you'll want to pursue further. If you are still not finding pertinent documents or information, consider using broader search terms (e.g., "Cuba" instead of "Cuban Missile Crisis"). This approach may retrieve a wider selection of relevant search results.

Keyword search

  • Digital archives vs. JFK website search: Endeca searches and retrieves two distinct groupings of materials: those from the digital archives, and those from the Kennedy Library's general website. Depending on which search box you use, the results you receive will default either to the digital archives or to the JFK website. To ensure that your search results come from the digital archives, use the Keyword search box located on the Search our Collections page (see screenshot below).

Keyword Search Box Screenshot (Crop)

The search box below, which can be found in the top right corner of every page on the JFK website, defaults to displaying results from the general JFK website – not the digital archives.

JFK Website Search Box Screenshot

To verify the source of your search results, check the Source box located on the top left-hand side of your search results page; make sure that the Digital Archives radio button is selected (see screenshot below). If you toggle between the two Sources, the search results will change. The parentheses ( ) indicate the number of search results retrieved from each Source.

Source Screenshot

  • Search terms vs. no search terms: Entering a word or phrase in the keyword search box will return all records containing that word or phrase. Leaving the search box blank and clicking on "Search" will return a list of all archival collections and holdings at the Kennedy Library.
  • Searching with and without quotation marks: A keyword search with quotation marks will return results that include that exact phrase. A search without quotation marks will return results that include any or all of those words.
  • Truncation symbol: Search terms may be truncated by using the * symbol (e.g., the term president* will also return "presidents," "presidential," etc.).
  • Suggested search terms: When typing in your search words, a drop-down list of suggested search terms will appear below the keyword search box (see screenshot below). Clicking on each suggested term or "facet" will retrieve different results. For a more inclusive set of results, we recommend clicking on the blue "Search" button, rather than on the facets, after typing in your desired search terms.

Keyword Search Dropdown Screenshot

  • Order of search results: Keyword search results are sorted by relevance.
  • Understanding your search results: Your keyword search will return a set of results (see "Search Results" screenshot below), each of which is preceded by an icon indicating what the result represents:

 collection icon a collection (clicking on this result will take you to the collection's overview and its finding aid, if available)

 digitized content icon a collection with digitized content (clicking on this result will take you to the collection's overview and finding aid,
                 with links out to the digitized content)

  folder icon a folder of digitized material (within a collection)

  moving image icon a digitized moving image

   museum artifact icon   a digitized museum artifact

  oral history icon an oral history interview (clicking on this result will take you to the interview summary and, if available,
                 the electronic transcript)

  Photograph Icon a digitized photograph

  Sound Recording Icon a digitized sound recording

  • Collection Overview: Clicking on a collection recordcollection iconin a list of search results will bring you to the collection's Overview, which provides summary details about the collection (see screenshot below). For collections with digitized content, the Overview provides a link to that content at the bottom of the page ("View Collection Content"). Collections with finding aids will also display a Finding Aid tab next to the Collection Overview tab. Clicking on the Finding Aid tab will make it the "active" tab (blue and white).

    Collection Overview Screenshot

  • Full-text search of digitized materials: Clicking on a folder recordfolder iconin a list of search results will bring you to the folder's digitized documents (see screenshot below). You may either browse the folder's contents (scroll through or click on and enlarge each page), or use the search box above it to conduct a full-text search of the materials. When using the folder-level search box, Endeca returns only those pages containing your search terms. To bring back all pages in the folder, or to clear your search and start again, click "[x] Clear". Note: Optical Character Recognition (OCR) results have not been edited or verified for accuracy.

Digitized Folder Screenshot

Faceted browsing

  • Browsable facets: Once you've conducted your keyword search and have retrieved a list of search results, Endeca displays a range of "facets" (search terms) on the left-hand side that can be used to further refine your results (see screenshot below). The number of results per facet is listed in parentheses ( ). With every search refinement you select, "bread crumbs" will appear in the upper left corner under Your Selections. Clicking on the red [x] next to a term will remove that refinement but leave the others in place.

    Faceted Browsing Screenshot 

  • Keyword searching and Faceted browsing can be used separately or together when searching the digital archives.
  • Source: The first and most basic facet is "Source," which indicates whether you are searching content from the digital archives or from the general JFK Library website (see "Source" screenshot above). You can toggle between the JFK website and digital archives results, which do not overlap.  
  • Object Type: All holdings in the digital archives fall into one of seven (7) Object Types: Collection, Moving Image, Museum Artifact, Oral History, Photograph, Sound Recording, and Textual Folder (for digitized textual material).

This facet can be very helpful if you are interested in browsing specific types of materials. The following screenshot shows that a search on "Cuban Missile Crisis" retrieves twenty-five (25) collections; one (1) museum artifact; one hundred forty-three (143) oral histories; one hundred twenty-three (123) photographs; thirty-eight (38) sound recordings; and seventy-nine (79) digitized folders of material with content relevant to this topic.

Of note: In a list of search results, Collection results always appear first (in alphabetical order, by collection name), followed by other Object Types.

Object Types Screenshot

  • Custom facets: Some facets appear only when a certain Object Type has been selected. For instance, if you narrow your search by the Object Type "Oral history," a new facet for "Interviewee" will appear. If you choose "Collection" as your Object Type, the facet "Digitized Collection Contains" becomes available (see description below).
  • Digitized Collection: This facet displays collections with digitized content. Clicking on a collection name here will retrieve a browsable list of digitized folders, photographs, etc. that make up the collection – though it will not display the finding aid. To view the finding aid or collection record, choose the "Collection" facet under Object Type and click on the collection you wish to see.
  • Digitized Collection Contains: Use this facet to limit your search to digitized collections containing a specific Object Type such as photographs or sound recordings. The screenshot below shows that a search on "Cuban Missile Crisis," refined by the Object Type "Collection," retrieves the following results from the digital archives: nine (9) collections with digitized textual folders; four (4) collections with digitized photographs; two (2) collections with digitized sound recordings; and one (1) collection with digitized moving images.

Digitized Collection Contains Screenshot

  • Subject: Topics represented in the archival holdings. A list of topical browsing terms is also available, along with descriptive notes and links to relevant collections.
  • Person: People who are primary subjects of the archival materials.
  • Place: Geographic locations represented in the archival materials.
  • Organization: Organizations that are primary subjects of the archival materials.
  • Contributor: An individual or organization, other than the archival creator, responsible for significant contributions to the intellectual, technical, artistic, or financial production of the archival materials. For photographic records, the Photographer (when known) is listed here.  

Advanced search

  • Search properties: Use Advanced Search to select specific fields or properties you wish to search on (you may include as many as you like). An explanatory list of available properties is available. Choose "All" to search across all available properties. Unless you know the exact term you are looking for, such as the formal version of a person's name (i.e. Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963), it is best to search using "CONTAINS" rather than "EQUALS".
  • Full-text search capability: If you select "All" in the Properties field, Advanced Search will perform full-text searching of digitized documents and transcripts of oral history interviews, in addition to searching collection metadata.

For further assistance, please contact Kennedy.Library@nara.gov or 617.514.1629. Have a research question? Ask an Archivist.