March 14, 1998
Competing Claims Resolved for Kennedy Materials in Auction
Washington, D.C. -- Late Monday the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and Robert L. White, a collector of materials associated with former President John F. Kennedy, reached an agreement under which NARA will take possession of twenty-one items of major historical importance that White originally had intended to sell at auction.
Included will be a writing table from the Oval Office in the White House on which President Kennedy signed letters, memos, executive orders, and legislation passed by the Congress. The table, which Kennedy preferred for such signings because it was lower than his desk, will be displayed in the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, which is part of the Presidential Library System of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Additionally, NARA will receive twenty original documents of historical importance including a telegram in which Lyndon Johnson, who had contested JFK’s nomination for the presidency in 1960, congratulated him on his nomination; memoranda from JFK to his secretaries of State and Defense; some notes that Kennedy made on foreign policy issues; and notes that the former President made in preparation for a historic meeting in Vienna in 1961 with Premier Khrushchev of the Soviet Union.
In addition, the agreement enables the National Archives and Records Administration to make high-quality copies of more than 100 documents of lesser historical significance scheduled to be sold at auction. All of this material will be made available to scholars and the public in the Kennedy Presidential Library.
Included among the original documents that NARA will receive are three items that NARA staff earlier identified as containing possible national security information. NARA already had received physical custody of this material from Mr. White for purposes of reviewing its classification status with federal agencies that would have originated the information.
Curators from NARA’s Kennedy Library will take possession of the rest of the material on Tuesday at Guernsey’s Auction House in New York City, where a sale of such items had been scheduled for Wednesday. Under NARA’s agreement with Mr. White, the Federal Government relinquishes any claim to the ownership of the other material offered in the auction catalogue.
A review of the catalogue had brought to the attention of NARA officials the possibility that some material in the auction might belong to the Federal Government under terms of a deed of gift by which the Kennedy estate had donated materials associated with the President and his life to NARA. The deed provided no itemized list, but NARA brought to Guernsey’s attention evidence that some material proposed for auction might have been included. Following a discussion by Mr. White’s representatives and NARA officials of their respective claims, Mr. White agreed to relinquish the items that NARA regarded as of greatest historical value and to enable NARA to copy others. The Government is grateful that the materials that are the subject of the agreement will be permanently preserved in the Kennedy Library as part of the historical heritage of the American people.
For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.