John F Kennedy Library and Museum

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In memory and honor of the 35th president of the United States of America, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library is a unique element on the Boston cultural scene. Offering visitors a look into not only the man behind the desk, but the time in which he served and the family that surrounded him, this monument to President Kennedy is a great way to learn about some of the most prolific moments of the mid-20th century.


The JFK Presidential Museum and Library is one of a network of preservation efforts throughout the U.S. that strives to collect and maintain the records, papers, collections, and other salient materials gathered during each ex-president’s term in office. Every president since Herbert Hoover has been immortalized through the construction of these buildings, known collectively as the Presidential Library System, which are used as much as archival repositories as cultural institutions.

The fifth of its type, the Kennedy Museum opened in October 1977, almost 14 year after the president’s assassination in November 1963. However, Kennedy had a say in the construction nevertheless, having openly discussed his plans to locate his own presidential museum closer to the “scholarly resources” of Boston and its great universities as opposed to previous presidential libraries which were largely scattered in small towns.

Indeed, Kennedy, his family, friends, and administration, had already concluded that, when the time came to build his library that they would take it one step further, presenting artifacts as well as archives presenting what he called the “complete record of a Presidential era.” This formula has thus been followed by all presidents since Kennedy as well.

The building itself is quite an achievement that was designed by architect I.M. Pei, a decision which was championed by JFK’s widow, Jackie. A relative unkown in the architectural world at the time, Pei would go on to design many other buildings, including the steel and glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris. He still called this the most important commission of his life. Pei had an intense vision for the library, which was to sit aside Harvard Square in Cambridge next to the Harvard Graduate School of Business. It would be part of a larger complex facing the Charles River and was to include the newly anointed John F. Kennedy School of Government.

However, construction delays, monetary problems, and the assassination of JFK’s brother Robert in 1968 all delayed the ground breaking in the chosen spot. By the time everything was set into place, residents in Cambridge began to complain that the placement of a tourist-oriented attraction in their city would disrupt the academic flow of Harvard’s campus and generally change the social landscape of their lives. Amidst these and other problems another site was found, located in Dorchester near Columbia Point in the east part of Boston. The site sits right on the water of Dorchester Bay and offers views of the city itself as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Groundbreaking for the library in this new location commenced on 12 June 1977, six years after Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, opened his own presidential museum and library in Austin, Texas, making him the first to combine the concepts of archive, museum, and research institute, not JFK.

However, since its opening later in 1977 and its emotional dedication two years later, the JFK Presidential Museum and Library has accomplished everything that its namesake expected it to and more. As a hub for research on the Kennedy Administration along with the historical events such as the Nixon-Kennedy Debates, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Space Program that marked his tenure, the museum provides over a million patrons annually with a unique look back in time.

Main Attraction

As part of a 10-acre park near the University of Massachusetts, Boston the Museum and Library is quite a sight. Its architecture is emblematic of Pei and his bourgeoning style of modern architecture. The museum itself is open 7 days a week, closing only on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Days. Each visitor is greeted with a short introductory film which reviews the highlights of Kennedy’s life and time in office.

Admission rates are for adults (18+), seniors (62+) and students (with ID), and children (13-17). Children under 12 are admitted free and frequent free admissions days are common throughout the year. There are also group discounts available for parties of 12 or more who make a reservation.

In addition to normal gallery viewing, the museum sponsors field trips, offers docent-led ‘walk-in’ tours, and is available for rental either by whole or in part for private events. There is also a museum store and café on the premises.

Why It’s a Must-See

The Kennedy Era is one of much mystery and glamour that is venerated by many Americans past and present. Taking a walk back in time to understand not only the details of the man behind the actions, but the actions themselves is a truly unique opportunity that history lovers and those who worship America’s Camelot will find exciting and educational for sure.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from John F Kennedy Library and Museum either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. The John F Kennedy Library is available on the Go Boston Card and Boston CityPass.