60 years ago, on November 22, President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The Warren Commission, set up to investigate the assassination of the president, concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, an employee in the bookstore building, shot from a sixth-floor window and fatally wounded President Kennedy. As VOA correspondent Kane Farabaugh reports, despite decades of efforts to demolish the building, the old structure has been turned into a museum about the tragedy and a memorial to President Kennedy.
“It’s been a really long-standing issue about what to do with this facility.”
Jeffrey Engel, a history professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, says community leaders struggled for a long time to balance the reality of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination with how the event negatively affected the city.
“In the minds of Americans, Dallas became synonymous with the assassination of President Kennedy. On the national political scene, Dallas was known as a hateful and dark city,” says Professor Engel.
“It was an unfair setting, but it remained like a dark cloud for decades over this community.”
Stephen Fagin is the curator of the Sixth Floor Museum, which now occupies the sixth floor of the former library from where, investigators say, Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy.
“This is a historic institution that explores the life, death and legacy of President Kennedy, as well as the broader history and culture of the 1960s,” says curator Fagin.
The Sixth Floor Museum opened in 1989 near Dealey Square and quickly became an important tourist destination.
“Dealey Square is the second most visited site in the state of Texas after the Alamo,” says Jeffrey Engel, professor of history at Southern Methodist University.
“There are places that have been stained by violence and tragedy. Dealey Square is one of them, ‘Pearl Harbor’ or the place where the World Trade Center once stood. They create the opportunity for us to properly remember the events that are there”, says curator Fagin.
He says the Sixth Floor Museum doesn’t draw definitive conclusions about what exactly happened in Dallas in November 1963.
“Murder, like many other things, is a highly debated topic. “Tourists come here whether they think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or whether it was a conspiracy,” Mr Fagin says.
“There are not a few who believe in different theories about the assassination of President Kennedy. There are those visitors who think they can come up with their own ideas after seeing the place of the event with their own eyes,” says Professor Engel.
“You may be intrigued by the nuances of the assassination, the ongoing questions about bullet trajectories and medical evidence. But at the end of the day, a president was killed here. Dealey Square is a symbol of the hope and unfulfilled promise that John Kennedy represented,” says curator Fagin.
The museum is not just a series of exhibitions, but also an archive. Some of the film footage of the assassination is preserved and licensed by the museum, as well as testimonies taken from the crowd and important figures of the events.
All of these enrich the museum by bringing a historical perspective on 20th century murder.
“This museum has played a key role in helping this community exorcise the last remaining demons from 1963,” says curator Fagin.
Over 300,000 visitors a year from 133 countries visit this museum