After decades of community soul-searching about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the fate of the Texas School Book Depository, and the challenging role Dallas would play in history, The Sixth Floor’s core exhibit, “John F. Kennedy and the Memory of a Nation,” opened on Presidents Day 1989. Now, 25 years later, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is commemorating how far it has come and its transformation from a short-term exhibit into one of the city’s most significant and visited historical sites.
“What was initially conceived as a temporary exhibit has evolved into a world-recognized, accredited museum that plays a crucial role within the Dallas cultural community,” said Nicola Longford, executive director of The Sixth Floor. “Since opening 25 years ago, the Museum has developed into a major collecting institution, with more than 45,000 items — including 1,200 oral histories — that connect generations from around the world to the legacy and memory of President Kennedy,” she said.
The Museum will kick off its yearlong commemoration of the milestone on Thursday, February 20, with a day of special presentations and offerings:
- The Museum’s Dealey Plaza cell phone tour will be offered free with Museum admission;
- Associate Curator Stephen Fagin will present a history of the Museum based on his recent book, “Assassination and Commemoration: JFK, Dallas and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza,” at 11 a.m.; a book signing will follow;
- Curator Gary Mack will present “>From Outsider to Insider,” an inside look at the early days of The Sixth Floor Museum, followed by a Q&A, at 2 p.m.
- Videos highlighting the Museum’s collections, its ongoing Oral History Project, and upcoming Living History programs will be shown throughout the afternoon beginning at 12 p.m.;
- The Museum’s Reading Room will be open to the public between 1 and 3 p.m. showcasing some of its many research resources;
- Guests can enter to win one of two Museum Anniversary Gift Baskets, to be given away at noon and 3 p.m.;
- All guests are invited to enjoy anniversary cake in the Museum Store + Café (across from the Museum at 501 Elm Street) at 3 p.m., while supplies last.
All presentations will take place on the Museum’s seventh floor and are included with Museum admission. No purchase is necessary to enter the gift basket drawings.
Longford noted that guests visiting on the anniversary will also get another treat: they’ll be among the first to see the Museum’s newest exhibit enhancement. Four touch-screen interactive stations have recently been installed near the sniper’s perch window to provide a better explanation of what happened below in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. The program begins with an animated video of the motorcade route through the Plaza, showing the path of the president’s limousine. Guests can then select one of several options to learn more about Dealey Plaza in the 1960s, the Grassy Knoll, Abraham Zapruder’s filming location, the Triple Underpass, and where the assassin’s shots are believed to have struck. Longford said the new stations answer many of the questions the Museum commonly hears from its visitors and enable the Museum to connect in new ways with its younger visitors. “The new interactives join other recent exhibit enhancements like the ‘Legacy’ film to help us reach across generations to further explore President Kennedy’s lasting impact,” she added.
Other promotions and events planned throughout the anniversary year include:
Monthly “First Tuesdays” Discounts
Beginning March 4, The Sixth Floor Museum will offer a 25% discount off regularly priced Museum admission on the first Tuesday of every month. “First Tuesdays” will be offered throughout 2014, to give area residents an incentive to explore one of the city’s most popular destinations. (The discount is not valid with other offers or for school or group visits.)
Yearlong Living History and Special Programs
The Museum’s Living History Series, which draws upon the Museum’s rapidly growing Oral History Project, will continue each month with presentations from individuals who were witness to the assassination or other events of the early 1960s. Other programs scheduled this year include:
- A symposium on presidential crises in collaboration with SMU, February 18-19, featuring a keynote lecture by author and syndicated columnist Richard Reeves;
- A conversation about “The City of Hate” with author Bill Minutaglio and video producer Quin Mathews on April 12;
- An evening with best-selling author James Swanson in May;
- A reunion of Dallas Times Herald photographers in November.
Additional programs and exhibits for the fall are currently in development. Dates and details for future programs are available on the Museum’s website at http://www.jfk.org/go/events.
Each month the Museum will share 25 interesting or unusual facts about the assassination, the Museum or President Kennedy via its website and on social media. February features “25 Interesting Facts about The Sixth Floor Museum (and the Texas School Book Depository).”
The Sixth Floor Museum is located at 411 Elm Street in Dallas’ Historic West End. For more information, go to www.jfk.org or call 214.747.6660.
About The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza chronicles the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy; interprets the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza; and presents contemporary culture within the context of presidential history. Located at 411 Elm Street in downtown Dallas, the Museum is open Monday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Tuesday – Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Audio guides for the permanent exhibit are included with admission and available in a variety of languages. For more information, visit www.jfk.org or call 214.747.6660.