During a short trip to Dallas, I had a chance to visit The Sixth Floor Museum in the Texas Book Depository. This is, of course, the site from where Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. A few thoughts about this intriguing museum:
1. There is a lot of interesting material about the event including photographs, videos, models, and artifacts. I have read multiple books on the subject and there were a number of features of that day that I had forgotten. It was a nice mix of media through which to explore that fateful day.
1a. One video featured the national TV news coverage in the days after the assassination. From what I saw, it looked like those few days were a quick foreshadowing of the 24/7 news we have today. After the shooting, the major news networks had live coverage for much of the next few days and NBC even captured the shooting of Oswald by Jack Ruby live on a Sunday.
2. It was hard not to feel a sense of sadness when hearing about the death of a President. This sadness was not just limited to the feelings of people at the time (and there was a 10-minute video showing the somber scenes in Washington D.C. as JFK’s body was led through the streets) but it was noticeable among those in the museum. There was a guestbook at the end of the museum and a number of people had signed it and expressed their condolences and emotions. I was not alive on that day but I could see why it was a momentous day for many Americans.
3. The museum had more than I expected about the possible conspiracies. I would be curious to hear how the museum decided to present these – they can’t really be ignored and this is why many people are interested in the event but many of the conspiracies have a limited basis in facts. One of the more interesting displays in the museum was one that showed the numerous governmental commissions that examined the issue between 1963 and 1980.
3a. One thought I had when standing next to the recreated corner where Oswald shot from was that it would have been a difficult shot to hit a person in a moving vehicle with trees in the way. There is some dispute about how good of a marksman Oswald was. I’d like to read more about how difficult of a shot this really was.
3b. One area where there was less information regarded the backstory of Lee Harvey Oswald. While they hinted at his convoluted story of defecting to the Soviet Union and then returning to the United States, there is a lot of other curious information they could have displayed.
4. The museum was quite positive about JFK’s legacy. Perhaps they are simply reflecting the positive way in many Americans view JFK (more info here).
5. I have mixed feelings about having a gift shop at the end of such an experience.
Overall, I imagine this would be an intriguing museum for many Americans and not just those interested in history or Presidents.