The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The JFK Library and Museum is on the harbor at Columbia Point, located on the campus of the University of Massachusetts.

The JFK Library and Museum started in 1961, when president John F Kennedy announced he would follow in the footsteps of his predecessors by having a presidential library built in his name. The library was completed and dedicated in 1979 by President Carter and then again in 1993 after its renovation. President Kennedy had selected a space in Harvard to have his library, but the first setback was finding a plot of land that would suffice. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts wanted to honor the president's wishes and bought land from the MBTA to give to the Kennedy Corporation. The corporation received donations totaling “$18 million from an estimated thirty million people from all over the world” (Fenn Jr 430). I. M. Pei was selected as the architect and his plans were accepted by both Cambridge and Harvard quickly. The library was expected to be built within a few years, but this was not the case. Residents feared the building ruining their neighborhood and protested the building. The residents goal was to keep the archives in Cambridge but ship the museum off to the naval yard in Charlestown. The corporation decided to not pursue John F Kennedy’s goal of having the library in Harvard. After negotiations, the Corporation had two options: splitting the building at the original Cambridge location, or going to Columbia Point on the campus of the University of Massachusetts.

In 1992, the library and museum closed for renovation due to the depressing feeling it left the visitors with. I.M. Pei created a space that was “designed to tell Kennedy’s story” and it gives off a comforting feeling to the users, as if they were visiting a friend (Brauer 196). This is because the “exhibits were designed to tell Kennedy’s story as much as possible in his own words and to give visitors a “you are there” experience of the early 1960s” (Brauer 196). As visitors make their way through, there are audio clips from Kennedy's presidency, such as his inauguration speech. The exhibits display various parts of his life, “One exhibit is dedicated to Kennedy’s live, televised press conferences, setting a high standard that his successors have not usually met.” And his “command of facts, humor, charm, and spontaneity are all on vivid display”(Brauer 196). The transformation of the spaces has a large positive impact on they leave on the visitors.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is a remarkable example of powerful architectural design. This building was one of I.M Pei’s earlier designs, back when he was an untested architect. He demonstrated an ability to create architecture that exhibited the important characteristics that encompassed Kennedy as an inspirational icon. The massive concrete tower displays a powerful leadership quality while the glass atrium not only provides a space for reflection and pause, but provides a moment of looking through an otherwise impenetrable body. This quality invites people in by playing with their natural curiosity while letting them know how important it is to enter. This is supported by providing spaces within that engage people’s intellect. The library stores expert literary works, such as Hemingway’s masterpieces, and documents providing insight on Kennedy’s own administration. The research areas are also places where visitors may observe. This continues to pull at people’s curiosity and not allowing any moments of secrecy within the architecture. This demonstrates Kennedy’s candidness to his country and expert ability to be a leader. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum commemorates the president and cements his legacy into the history of the United States.