“It’s just so close!” my mother said regarding the Texas School Book Depository, the building where Lee Harvey Oswald shot out of a sixth floor window at President Kennedy’s motorcade. That was my reaction too when we visited the building, now the Sixth Floor Museum. I was shocked to see how close it is to where the motorcade was. I pictured Dealey Plaza to be much, much bigger!
In a previous post, I wrote about the debate over the “X”s on the street to mark the spot where the bullets hit. In this post, I will write about the museum itself. (Just FYI, like many museums, you can’t take pictures inside).
We visited the museum in December 2011, on a road trip to Dallas while visiting my brother and sister-in-law who live in Texas .
The museum makes compelling use of photos, video and audio. There were so many images that I had never seen before. One of the best videos showed images of the nation and the world in mourning. These images were set to music that fit the tone perfectly. There was no narration. It is really absorbing, and no one in the room could take their eyes of the screen.
One image that stayed with me was Jackie Kennedy in the funeral procession walking stoically down a street in Washington, D.C. with Robert and Ted Kennedy. The music was timed to their slow procession, and I could not believe that I had never seen that video before. It is such a powerful scene.
At the museum, most guests use headphones to listen to an audio tour, which features interviews with a wide range of people who were in Dallas that day, saw the shooting, participated in the investigation, etc. Each piece brings a different perspective to the events of that day. What would our perspective be on other historical events if we had such a vast collection of audio and video?
The combination of all these media is both compelling and absorbing, although from a practical standpoint, it causes logjams of people at certain points in the museum. Plus there is text on the wall displays that does not match the audio tour, so you have to stop the audio guide to read the text.
As may be appropriate for a place that explores the events surrounding a presidential assassination, the museum is extremely quiet, partly because everyone is listening to the audio tour. There is a natural solemnity when you become so absorbed with what can be a difficult subject matter, but maybe that’s part of a deliberate attempt to keep the museum as a place of respectful remembrance and reflection. In fact,when you hear someone talking to his/her companions, it seems strange and a bit disturbing.
I’ll write more about our visit to the Sixth Floor Museum in my next post.