Heritage, Volume 10, Number 3, Summer 1992 Page: 13
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O ~ ~TO V e TS~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~IWNOM
By Conover Hunt
The Sixth Floor: John F. Kennedy and
the Memory of a Nation, is a permanent
historical display examining the life, death,
and legacy of John F. Kennedy. The 8,800
square-foot exhibition is located in the
former Texas School Book Depository
overlooking Dealey Plaza in downtown
Dallas. Part museum, part historic restoration
project, and part narrative account of
three decades of American social history,
The Sixth Floor has attracted more than a
million visitors from around the world since
it opened to the public on February 20,
The $3.8 million project was a joint
effort of Dallas County, owner of the building,
and the non-profit Dallas County Historical
Foundation, which was created in
1983 specifically to organize and operate
the exhibition. Since opening, The Sixth
Floor has scored a positive rating from
more than 98 percent of its visitors. From
concept to completion, however the project
took nearly 12 years. In fact, the very notion
of interpreting a national tragedy
within that infamous space set off a storm
of controversy that surrounded the exhibition
from its very inception.
The Depository company moved to another
Dallas location in 1970, leaving the
future of the 1901 warehouse in doubt.
When Dallas County exercised an option
to purchase the deteriorated structure late
in 1977, municipal leaders knew that plans
to renovate the building into a new seat of
county government would have to make
allowances for the structure's historical association
with the Kennedy assassination.
Government investigations since 1963 had
concluded that the sixth floor of the old
Depository was the location from which a
sniper had fired shots that killed President
Kennedy and seriously wounded Texas
Governor John B. Connally. In fact, the
government-sponsored House Select Committee
on Assassinations was conducting its
investigation into the slaying during 1977.
Once again, Dealey Plaza and the Depository
had become an active crime scene.
County officials wanted to make certain
that the renovation did not inadvertently
destroy or remove a part of the evidence, so
they called on The Dallas County Historical
Commission, chaired by volunteer community
history activist Lindalyn Adams, for
assistance. The major task: determine the
critically important areas of the building
and find a use for the notorious sixth floor.
Accordingly, the historical commission
convened a panel of national experts in
1978 to examine the relationship of the old
Depository to the assassination and to make
recommendations about the most appropriate
methods for historic preservation at
the site. The conversion into the new Dallas
County Administration Building took place
in phases between 1979 and 1988.
In 1979 the panel advised the county to
set aside the sixth floor for future installation
of an educational display for the enrichment
of the hundreds of thousands of
visitors who came to Dealey Plaza each
year. The announcement set off the first
wave of controversy. Critics of the conclusions
of the numerous official investigations
into the assassination predicted that
the exhibit would ignore the work of writers
who had questioned the government's
claims that Lee Harvey Oswald had shot
and killed President John Kennedy and
seriously wounded Texas Governor John
B. Connally. (Conclusions on the matter of
From concept to
Sixth Floor Exhibit,
located in the
former Texas School
Dealey Plaza, site
of the assassination
of President John F.
nearly 12 years to
complete. The very
notion of interpreting
a national tragedy
infamous space set
off a storm of
controvery that surrounded
from its inception.
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1992 13
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 10, Number 3, Summer 1992, periodical, Summer 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45419/m1/13/: accessed January 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.