Friday, November 15, 2013

Totally Texas -- The long view from a corner window

The Sixth Floor Museum

411 Elm St., Dallas


It’s a perfect, clear November afternoon in Dallas and I’m looking down on the street from a corner window high in the former Texas School Book Depository. But it’s a window on the seventh floor, not the sixth floor. Not the window where young depository employee Lee Harvey Oswald left a clipboard of orders unfilled as he ran downstairs after the passage of President John F. Kennedy’s convertible on a similar afternoon nearly fifty years ago.

And I’m not trying to make a twisted version of history, watching the bystanders across the street in Dealey Plaza. (Although a security guard keeps discreet watch over the few visitors to The Sixth Floor Museum who venture up to this nearly-empty seventh floor.)

I’ve come up the stair from the crowded main exhibit hall, displaying some of the 40,000 items the museum has collected relating to Kennedy’s assassination and its aftermath, as well as cultural artifacts of the Kennedy family, administration, and 1960’s culture. Even more exhibits seem to have been added since I visited the museum in 2011. Surely the president’s unused luncheon setting, from the banquet at nearby Dallas Trade Center he was en route to, wasn’t there on my earlier visit.

Neither, if I remember, was the Neiman Marcus suit Dallas police detective Jim Leavelle wore for what he knew would be his photo-op of a lifetime, escorting accused assassin Oswald from Dallas Police Headquarters in front of a mob of journalists. Leavelle and his suit survived the day. Oswald, shot by local nightclub owner Jack Ruby, did not.

But the centerpieces of the museum, film of Kennedy’s triumphant trip down Main Street, the cars speeding away after the firing of shots, the coffin lying in state with its covering flag kissed by his calm--if still slightly dazed-looking--widow, Jacqueline, are still there.
Still stirring emotions fifty years later.

Because of intense public interest as the assassination anniversary nears, The Sixth Floor Museum has extended its hours this month and instituted a timed entry system. Hours through the end of November are 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, noon - 7 p.m. Mondays. On November 22, the museum will delay opening until 3 p.m. and remain open until 8 p.m. because of anticipated crowds in Dealey Plaza and elsewhere around the city while Dallas holds an official commemoration.

Tickets are $16 for adults, $13 for children under age six. I bought a ticket online, which can be done up to two hours in advance of the designated entry time. Parking at the museum’s lot is $5, but the museum entry is within a few blocks from both the West End and Union Station DART stops. And while you’re in the museum, visit the seventh floor as well, for artist Alex Guofeng Cao’s pixilated portraits of Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy. And for a moment to look quietly out the window.
For more information, related events, or to buy tickets, see the museum’s site,

For more assassination-related posts at this site see “Shots still echoing,” Nov. 14, 2011; “Stephen King on changing history,” Nov. 16, 2011; “The face that drove Oswald to kill,” Sept. 16, 2013; “Dallas dead, the famed & the infamous,” October 25, 2013; “Countdown to a tragedy remembered,” Nov. 1, 2013; and “JFK sites in Dallas, 50 years later,” Nov. 8, 2013.

(Next Friday--Dallas remembers.)

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