About Kennedy's Secret White House Recordings

About Kennedy's Secret White House Recordings

In July of 1962, John F. Kennedy began secretly recording what would become roughly 260 hours of meeting and telephone conversations.

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.

General 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 by topic or browse by date or conversation title.  
  • A finding aid is available through the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Browsing or searching the Kennedy tapes

  • All available recordings for all six presidents who secretly recorded conversations are available on the Research the Tapes landing page. The collection of recordings across all six presidents includes more than 30,000 unique recordings. 
  • Using the "Filter" tool, you can limit your search or browsing to one or more presidents.
  • The Kennedy tapes will display in chronological order. Meeting recordings and Dictabelt telephone conversations are intermixed in the listing to preserve a chronological context for the recordings.
  • Each recording has a set of metadata associated with it to allow for searching. The metadata for Kennedy includes: date, participants, description, title, and original recording number. Only researchers familiar with the recordings will likely know the original recording number.
  • We use organic search for the Secret White House Recordings allowing users to use multiple terms in a single data string. So, for example, if you were interested in finding recordings involving Robert McNamara about Vietnam in 1963 you would simply enter: "McNamara Vietnam 1963" into the search box to surface the relevant recordings. Do not use boolean terms such as "and" or "or."