Some events, like the attack on Pearl Harbor and 9/11, etch themselves into the country’s psyche. The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, Tex., is dedicated to one such day in American history – Nov. 22, 1963 – the day President John F. Kennedy died, assassinated while riding in a motorcade through the streets of Dallas.
Located on the sixth and seventh floor of the former Texas School Book Depository, the Sixth Floor Museum is a must see for Dallas visitors. From the ground floor entrance, an elevator transports visitors not just to the sixth floor but also back decades to 1963. The museum sets the stage detailing the political and social forces of the time, and helps us understand the background around many of the assassination conspiracy theories.
Through an audio guide, displays, photographs and other artifacts, the museum portrays America three years into the Kennedy Presidency. The Bay of Pigs, the buildup of U.S. forces in Vietnam, increased efforts towards racial desegregation and the crackdown on organized crime eroded support for JFK on both ends of the political spectrum. The November trip to Dallas was an effort by the President to regain Southern support as he prepared to launch a second bid for the White House.
It was on the way from Dallas’ Love Field airport that President Kennedy’s motorcade traveled past the Texas School Book Depository. Fatefully positioned across the way in Dealey Plaza, Abraham Zapruder filmed the presidential motorcade with his home-movie camera at the moment shots were fired. The Sixth Floor Museum employs frames from the Zapruder film to create a timeline to help visitors understand the sequence of events that November day. Perhaps most strikingly, the museum has recreated the sniper’s nest Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly used to fire the shots at the President. Gazing out museum windows, visitors view the road below much as the assassin did almost 50 years ago. Museum displays further detail events following the shooting including the apprehension of Oswald and his assassination by Jack Ruby.
Don’t miss the poignant, ten-minute film of John F. Kennedy’s funeral. While short, the film leaves viewers with the emotional sensation of experiencing the entire three-day state funeral. The film covers all aspects from lying in state at the U.S. Capital to internment at Arlington Cemetery. Interspersed are clips of services and memorials held around the world.
The final third of the museum is devoted to the investigations, evidence and various conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination. It’s this section of the Sixth Floor Museum that inspires discussions well beyond the museum visit. Did Oswald act alone? Could a single shot actually hit both Kennedy and Governor Connally as concluded by the Warren Commission? Were three shots or four fired? Was there a shooter on the grassy knoll? Museum exhibits faithfully present the theories and associated evidence without any attempt to sway visitors one way or another.
Once you leave the museum, be sure to visit the grassy knoll and Dealey Plaza just outside the Sixth Floor Museum. Here you’ll see the exact spot where JFK was shot (marked by a white “X” on the roadway) and can explore the grassy knoll. The Sixth Floor Museum also offers a cell phone tour of ten outdoor locations figuring prominently into the JFK assassination.
In addition to exhibit space open to the public, the Sixth Floor Museum maintains an extensive collection of over 4,000 articles, film clips, books and other artifacts relating to the Kennedy Presidency and early 1960 culture in its reading room. Access to the reading room is by appointment only with guidelines for use similar to those in place for library archival collections.
If you go
The Sixth Floor Museum is located at 411 Elm in Dallas. It’s open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Tuesday – Sunday; and 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Monday. Admission to the museum is $13.50 for adults and $12.50 for seniors and youth. An audio guide is included with the admission fee. The museum offers a children’s audio guide although the nature and type of exhibits probably would not interest children under 8 years old. The cell phone tour of outdoor locations is $2.50.
Parking is readily available near the museum at a nominal fee. The Sixth Floor Museum is also accessible by public transportation via DART light rail (West End station).
For more information, visit the Sixth Floor Museum website at www.jfk.org or call them at 214-747-6660.
The Sixth Floor Museum is located in Dallas’ historic West End. Several national chain restaurants are within an easy walk of the museum including Hard Rock Café, Corner Bakery, Spaghetti Warehouse and others. For a more unique dining experience try Y.O. Steakhouse (702 Ross Ave., Dallas) for lunch. Y.O. Steakhouse is open seven days a week with lunch service beginning at 11 a.m. Y.O. Steakhouse offers everything from salads to burgers to steaks. For something truly unusual, try their ostrich burger.