Heritage, Volume 10, Number 3, Summer 1992 Page: 15
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tory, they reasoned, would create a stable
framework for dealing with a subj ect clouded
by debate and speculation. The Sixth Floor
would not take sides in the matter of the
"who or why" of the assassination. Neither
would it seek to evaluate the success or
failure of the Kennedy presidency. Finally,
it would not try to solve the crime to the
satisfaction of a skeptical public. Visitors
would be left to draw their own conclusions.
Unlike traditional historical exhibitions,
The Sixth Floor reinfused the narrative
with much of the emotion of the times,
largely through the use of historic film
footage and powerful photographic images.
Technically, the idea of opening the
upper floor of a major county office building
to large numbers of tourists created a
challenge for designers, architects, and
preservation specialists. Access to the sixth
floor had to bypass normal county business.
Hence, the decision was made to construct
a separate visitor center and elevator access
behind the building on the side opposite
Dealey Plaza. Structurally, the foundation
of the old Depository was unstable; creation
of a freestanding elevator tower would
avoid stress to old brick walls. Wooden
ceiling beams, original to the building, had
warped and twisted through the ravages of
time and stress caused by wind load from
the advertising sign on the roof. Preservationists
devised a method to stabilize them
in place. The sign itself was carefully removed
and remains stored until a new
structural support system, independent of
the building walls, can be devised.
County business functions on the fifth
floor called for sound buffering on the sixth
floor, the space needed modern climate
controls for the comfort of the visitors,
codes required the installation of emergency
staircase exits, the display needed
exhibit lighting, and the film presentations
needed electrical outlets. The historic space
underwent a host of changes to meet modem
demands for safety and clarity in the presentation
of education materials. In all
cases, the planners tried to use reversible
The Sixth Floor was never conceived as
a traditional museum exhibition, nor was it
created as a memorial to anyone. Dealey
Plaza had been a tourist attraction for 25
years before the exhibit opened its doors.
The planners followed a general philosophy
of objectivity presented with visual
restraint. Research on audience patterns at
similar historic sites showed that more than
50 percent of the visitors would be families
Restoration of arches over windows on the sixth floor required the insertion of a hidden steel lintel to correct
a structural deficiency, replacement of the original bricks, and matching the historic mortar. Eugene George,
AIA, was restoration architect in charge of the project.
with impressionable children. (The actual
percentage for the Sixth Floor is higher.)
The board elected to withhold the most
graphic visuals of the assassination from
public display and to make them available
instead in the archives for study by researchers.
Weaponry and other artifacts
that connote violence were also left in the
archives for scholarly examination.
In the end, the Sixth Floor's most dominant
artifact is the space itself, carefully
adapted for safe public access but restored
"to preserve the dirt." The most important
visual is the view into Dealey Plaza. The
narrative historical materials were arranged
on a series of panels suspended between the
original columns throughout the area. Areas
in the exhibit directly associated with
the crime - the so-called sniper's perch
and the corner staircase where the rifle was
found - were preserved, then protected
from public wear and tear by glass. The
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1992 15
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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/m1/15/: accessed April 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.