I am excited to announce that today the United States National Archives has released a new audio recording from the John F. Kennedy assassination to Wikimedia. You can find the files on Wikimedia Commons:

As a work of the American federal government, the recording is in the public domain. This two-hour tape recording of the communications of Air Force One personnel following the assassination is a new discovery which was recently donated to the National Archives. As part of NARA’s roll-out strategy for this high-profile item, the digitized recording was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons at the same time as it was revealed on archives.gov.  We hope that the upload of these files to Wikimedia Commons will help increase their exposure while encouraging Wikimedians to add value to them through transcribing them or using them as encyclopedic source material and subject matter.

In preparation for the release, NARA provided me an advance copy of the 1.4 GB raw WAV files from the digitization (you will only get MP3 from NARA’s site). I must also thank Wikimedia Poland, who kindly donated server space to store and convert the files to OGG before upload. According to the National Archives press release:

The Raab Collection recently discovered two ¼” open reel audio tapes containing identical excerpts from the Air Force One flight on Nov. 22, 1963… The tape also includes communication between the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) and a second aircraft of the Presidential fleet, known as 86972 (by its tail number), which was en route to Tokyo at the time of the assassination with members of the President’s cabinet.

 The recording includes references to new code names and incidents. Among them are a private conversation by head of the Secret Service Jerry Behn about the disposition of the President’s body; an expanded conversation about how to remove the body from the plane and where to take it; an urgent effort by an aide to Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay to reach General Clifton; and attempts to locate various Congressmen from Texas. (read more)

This development is part of the ongoing relationship between the US National Archives and the Wikimedia projects, which my service as Wikipedian in Residence represents. It is not NARA’s first upload to Wikimedia Commons—since I announced the first upload of over 200 high-resolution Ansel Adams photos last June, we have added tens of thousands of high-resolution historical documents to Wikimedia Commons. That press release is also not the first NARA web page to link prominently to Wikimedia projects. Some NARA educational pages reference Wikipedia articles written in response to an editing challenge, while documents that Wikisource has transcribed are linked from the online catalog.

We’re also running a multilingual featured article contest and are encouraging transcriptions on Wikisource. And when the National Archives’ new Citizen Archivist Dashboard was launched, garnering lots of buzz within the archival community, it included Wikipedia editing and Wikisource transcription missions for the public. In addition, NARA has hosted a series of on-site events for Wikipedians which included tours into the stacks, scanning parties, and even a trip on board the real Air Force One (albeit the one on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California). If you would like to get more involved, the NARA collaboration has WikiProjects on Wikipedia, Wikisource, and Commons.

Dominic McDevitt-Parks

Wikipedian in Residence, National Archives and Records Administration