Heritage, Volume 10, Number 3, Summer 1992 Page: 17
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display contains no original evidence; artifacts
are limited to books, newspapers,
theater programs from the early 1960s,
campaign materials, a few manuscripts,
and an AP teletype machine and original
UPI wire bulletin, both from 1963.
In its completed form, The Sixth Floor
includes more than 350 photographs, 30
artifacts, and 43 minutes of documentary
films, the latter integrated into the exhibit
in four kiosks and two seated theater presentations.
Elevators take visitors directly
to the sixth floor. The exhibition begins
with a section devoted to a cultural overview
of the early 1960s, followed by information
on the 1960 presidential campaign,
the Kennedy White House and JFK's administrative
programs. The section concludes
with a short documentary on the
The president's trip to Texas, with a
short film, comes next, followed by panels
detailing the reception in Dallas and the
motorcade. The assassination sequence is
short and features a series of witness photographs.
The period immediately following
the shooting includes panels on the trip to
Parkland Hospital and the early witness
accounts relating to the School Book Depository
and the Grassy Knoll. Visitors can
then view the "sniper's perch," and contemplate
the view into Dealey Plaza below
from the row of windows along the south
wall of the sixth floor.
The assassination weekend, titled "The
Crisis House," includes information about
the initial investigations and the arrest
and death of Lee Harvey Oswald; another
short documentary film recaptures some of
the drama of the actual events. There is a
weekend time line of events in Washington,
D.C., and Dallas, then a theater presentation
on the national and world response
to news of the president's death.
The section concludes with materials on
the global mourning and the state funeral
in Washington on November 25, 1963.
The rest of the exhibition traces the
history of the numerous official investigations
into the crime, including an overview
of the major areas of controversy and
summaries of dominant critical theories
that have shaped public opinion since 1963.
A final theater presentation with adjacent
panel interpretation provides information
about the life, death, and legacy of John F.
Kennedy. Finally, visitors see the restored
comer staircase and freight elevators, then
pass by a panel dealing with permanent
world memorials to President Kennedy's
memory. At the end of the historical display,
visitors are invited to write their own
recollections or impressions in one of the
three memory books there. Pages from these
books are preserved in the foundation archives.
After years of controversy, The Sixth
Floor was warmly received by both the
media and the public as an educational
overview of a dramatic but troubling era.
During the first year of operation nearly 85
percent of all visitors came from a distance
of 100 miles or more; representatives from
80 foreign countries left messages in the
"History, after all, is the memory of a
nation," wrote John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Ultimately, The Sixth Floor is a record of
the origins and evolution of a powerful
collective memory. For adults who experienced
the events of 1963, The Sixth Floor
is a remembrance. For younger audiences, it
is immersion in the distant history of an era,
a president, and a tragic event, with an
overview of the legacy of all three.
Visitor comments show that The Sixth
Floor has a pronounced emotional impact
on audiences. For those who remember
1963, it has proven to be cathartic. The
young have gained insights into the terrible
emotional power of a tragedy. The exhibit
also provides a framework for evaluating
some of the conflicting commentaries young
audiences see on television, in print, and in
For Dallas - the county, the local foundation
board, and the financial contribu
tors- The Sixth Floor represents a victory
for clarity over controversy, because the
exhibit has become something of a safe
haven within an enduring storm. It took
courage for Dallas to set aside its own pain
in order to make Dealey Plaza educationally
enriching to an international audience,
an audience that had clearly claimed
the site for its own. "Thank you," wrote one
of the exhibit's earliest visitors, "for giving
us a dignity in remembering."
Conover Hunt, former project director and
curator of The Sixth Floor Exhibit, served in
that position from 1978 to 1989.
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1992 17
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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/m1/17/: accessed October 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.