Help with the Presidential Recordings
The Miller Center's Presidential Recordings Program provides comprehensive audio downloads and select transcripts from the Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon White House Tapes. Additional information about many of the tapes is available through auxillary publications. When possible, those publications are listed or made available on this site.
All available information about Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower recordings are available on their project pages.
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John F. Kennedy
Guidelines for using the Kennedy tapes:
- John F. Kennedy recordings were administered by the Secret Service and were subject to several numbering schemes over the course of their execution. Because of this, it may be most useful to search or browse the Kennedy tapes by date, not by number. Click for more information about the organization of the tapes.
- Generally speaking, fewer details are available about the 1963 May-November recordings than about other tapes. Information is provided when available.
- On the Kennedy home page, a plus on the right side of the listing (+) indicates that more information is available than is currently shown. Click through to the detail page to view the full record.
- The Kennedy collection of Presidential Recordings consists of Meeting recordings and Dictabelt recordings. The Meeting recordings are made primarily of conversations in the Oval Office and Cabinet Room. The Dictabelt recordings consist primarily of telephone conversations with occasional dictation included.
- Some transcripts are available alongside the audio files, others were published in three volumes through W.W. Norton Press in October 2001. Click through to explore PDFs of the Norton transcripts.
- A finding aid is available through the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Kennedy tapes are divided up as follows:
|Meeting Recordings 1962|
|October||27.1-46 track 2|
|November||47-65 part 1|
|December||65 part 2 - 69.1|
|Meeting Recordings 1963|
|2A.1 - 52.1|
Lyndon B. Johnson
Johnson recordings are organized primarily by tape number, then broken into conversation numbers. This numbering scheme is consistent, with very few exceptions, throughout the tapes.
In addition to search provided on the Miller Center's site, search is also available through the Johnson Presidential Library.
Guidelines to using the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library search:
The database allows for both subject and personal name searches. For example:
- A search on McNamara would return all conversations between Johnson and Robert McNamara.
- A search on Vietnam would return all conversations about Vietnam.
- A search on McNamara and Vietnam would return all conversations between Johnson and Robert McNamara about Vietnam.
Results will be returned in a list of hyperlinks and will look like:
- 1359 ROBERT MCNAMARA 1/14/64 11:35A WH6401.13 PNO 18
Clicking on the link will open a .pdf document that will describe the conversation (i.e. length, speakers, subject). The database does NOT provide access to the actual audio recording. To listen to the recording, make note of the citation number (1359 in the example above) and the tape number (6401.13 in the example above) and return to our site to download the recording--please note that recordings from 1963 will not have citation numbers.
Nixon recordings are numbered by location of the original recording. The locations are broken into 5 groups:
|White House Telephone Recordings||White House Tape #s 1 - 46|
|Cabinet Room Recordings||White House Tape #s 47 - 129|
|Camp David Recordings||White House Tape #s 130 - 244|
|Executive Office Building Recordings||White House Tape #s 245 - 449|
|Oval Office Recordings||White House Tape #s 450 - 949|
Within each group, the recordings are generally organized chronologically by the original White House Tape number assigned by the U.S. Secret Service, which maintained President Nixon's taping system. The nature of Nixon's recording system complicates research on the recordings. Recordings from the same day will often occur in more than one of the above groups. Thus, a researcher looking for material from a particular date may find it necessary to listen to recordings from multiple groups (e.g. the first day Nixon recorded--April 16, 1971--is captured on Tape # 47, a Cabinet Room recording, and Tape # 450, an Oval Office recording). A sortable spreadsheet of Nixon tapes is available for download here.
In order to facilitate access, archivists divided the tapes into numbered conversations; generally, there are a numerous conversations per tape. A conversation number is made up of the tape number followed by a number indicating a specific conversation on that tape (e.g. conversation number 50-3 would be the third conversation on tape 50.) To access conversation number 50-3, a researcher would download tape 50 and move through the recording until he or she reached the third conversation on the tape. Below are two .pdf documents listing all of the available Nixon recordings by conversation number and by date.
Complicating this process is the length of the original White House tapes. Typically these tapes are 6 hours in length. The Scripps Library is presenting these recordings in 2 hour increments. Thus Tape 50 in the above example will be presented on our website in three parts. Depending on the length of the conversations on tape 50, conversation 50-3 could be on Part a, Part b, or Part c. A researcher can use the corresponding tape subject log (outline of the conversation) to assist in locating the desired conversation(s).
Researchers, in addition, may find the following documents useful in their research. The three indexes point researchers to specific White House tapes (e.g. looking up Dean Acheson in the Name Index indicates that Acheson is either involved in or is mentioned in White House Tape #s 3, 6, 11, etc...). Similar searches can be done by geographical location or by acronym. Once you have identified which White House tapes may be of interest, you can refine your search by checking the tape log for that particular tape. Tape logs include general outlines of each conversation containing references to the people, places, and subjects being discussed in a specific conversation. On this site, tape logs are organized with the corresponding audio files.
A number of abbreviations for personal names occur in the Conversation Lists above. The Abbreviation document below deciphers many of these abbreviations (e.g. the document indicates that GRF stands for Gerald Ford).