Friday, April 11, 2014

Dallas Book Depository

Although I like going to museums, it seems as if I am always disappointed with them. They are full of people bumping and jostling each other and they always seem dumbed down to me. The last part I'm sure is because I am an avid history reader and probably know more than the average person which is who they cater too. So when we made it to the 6th Floor Museum at the Dallas Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy, I figured it would be similar to past experiences. While waiting to get a ticket and three school buses of young kids rolled up and got escorted into the museum ahead of us, I figured any enjoyment I might get from going through this museum was now lost. I was pleasantly surprised.

When you entered the museum, they gave you a set of headphones connected to a audio device that allowed you to play an audio track pertaining to what you were looking at. One benefit is that you could go at your own pace which let me allow the kids to get off ahead and out of the way. The biggest benefit however was that it allowed you to disappear inside your own little bubble and immerse yourself in the experience. At times it felt like I was personally getting escorted through the museum by a very knowledgeable curator.

You were not allowed to take pictures in the museum proper which I liked. It allowed you to further immerse yourself in the experience instead of walking around people posing for photographs. As a result, I have no pictures of inside the museum. In the photo above, the middle window on the right is the window that Lee Harvey Oswald shot out of killing President Kennedy. It was enclosed in a giant glass box and preserved so that it looked just like it did on that day. The window above it with the partially opened blinds is on the 7th floor and contains traveling exhibits.

On the day we visited, there were only two giant portraits of President Kennedy and his wife made out of tiny individual pictures of each other. While I was admiring them, the guard said I could go through an open door and look out the windows, the ones you see above with the half open blinds. We were allowed to take pictures on the 7th floor so I took several pictures including the one below. In it you can see where the second and third bullets struck Kennedy marked by the white X's on the pavement. The first bullet didn't hit him. As my oldest daughter and I went back through the door into the museum 7th floor proper, some other museum employees closed off the room and blocked it so my wife and others behind me couldn't see what I saw. I'm glad I got a picture first.

Standing and looking out this window was a very moving experience for me. I wasn't even alive when these events took place but because I was here looking down, it felt almost like I was seeing through the eyes of Oswald as the events unfolded. I was reminded of the computer demonstration that I saw one floor down that showed a virtual unfolding of events as they happened that day.

This is the infamous Grassy Knoll which is hidden behind the trees on the left side of the previous photo. On the far right side of this photo is the spot where the famous Zapruder film was taken of the assassination. After the museum, we walked across the street to sit in the shade trees near the fountain and absorb our surroundings. The whole time I kept feeling the raw emotions of the event from 50 years earlier bubbling up and almost overwhelming me at times. Because it isn't the first time I have visited historic sites, I can only assume it was because it is so well preserved and looks just like it did back then. Anyway, we spent the morning here and it was a very memorable experience and one that I highly recommend to anyone visiting Dallas.

This building has nothing to do with the assassination of Kennedy other than he passed between it and the building just seen on the far left of the photo moments before he turned the corner in front of the Book Depository and shot seconds later. I was just captivated by the architecture and the style of buildings we made back in the day. We certainly don't make them like that anymore.


Anonymous said...

There tends to be a major problem with museums dating back to the 18th century when the items were seen as spoils from other cultures. If you think of the emotion you feel for the Stars and Stripes, the actual piece of cloth, then you get how the 18/19/20 and even today sees the exhibits at a museum. It was enough to know they were taken from someone else. You also have it with public hangings, where people from miles around would turn you not to see someone die but to take a moment, that of when they died. If you are entering a museum using the items as an anchor for a cultural story and there is no summery with a reading list provided all you see is so much stuff dug from the ground in one part of the world only to have someone to stick a label on it and bury it in another.
Kennedy and Dallas, like with me and Delphi in Greece, is known to you. You have the back story. But more importantly you have the cultural story, all you needed was seeing the inside of the Deposit to stitch everything together.
You now have a fairly good idea if the shots were from 1 or 2, or even more.
My issue with the Oswald only theory is because the car was driving away and that the photo from the window always has a narrow field. But if the natural lift on recoil lays the barrel naturally over the new position of the Limo driving away then ... . You see I believe it a profound error to focus upon the reloading action when you hear about the Grassy Knoll. Reloading is a function of muscle memory, your basic endless practice. But it's a very different matter to sight quickly AND with certainty.

Ed said...

Vince - It is funny how people believe different things on the assassination and almost everyone has a definite opinion on this one. I read a lot of history and have always felt from what I read that Oswald acted alone. After seeing all the evidence and testing at the museum, I thought it was pretty iron clad. Yet another person I was talking to afterward felt that Oswald acted on behalf of Vice President Johnson. Another one felt that there was a cover up involved that hid a second shooter. They all saw and listened to the same evidence as me.

Anonymous said...

I had a reread of my comment and it's a bit incomprehensible frankly.
What I was trying to say was museums were established to display booty. So when people went to visit about 80% of the reason was to gloat and the other 20 to say they had seen it.
The connection I was making to the S&S is the aspect of seeing it as a Standard, the rallying point. How would you feel if it was sitting in a museum of some former enemy, now a friend, as a spoil of war. That emotional connection now reserved for very few items was widespread and to lots of things.
Nowadays we want to know about cultures, and realise the item isn't that important beyond being an anchor.