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Remembering JFK: The Sixth Floor Museum

In the 20 years following the assassination, the seven-story, red brick building that housed the Book Depository changed hands and survived arson. A plan to open a commercial JFK museum there never materialized. In 1977, Dallas County bought the building, and officials set aside the sixth floor, the apparent vantage point from which alleged sniper Lee Harvey Oswald had shot the president. The remaining floors were renovated for use as administrative offices, and, in 1981, the county renamed the structure the Dallas County Administration Building.

In 1983, Dallas County officials, along with volunteer Lindalyn Bennett Adams and other members of the Dallas County Historical Foundation, began developing plans for a museum honoring John F. Kennedy. On February 20, 1989, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, situated on the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository, opened to the public.

A visit here can be at once enlightening, painful, and cathartic. The museum, through some 400 still photographs, six short films, and numerous artifacts, leads you through a thought-provoking study of the life and final moments of our 35th president. It also provides factual presentations on the aftermath of the assassination, the four official investigations of the crime, and several of the conspiracy theories that have arisen.

The journey begins as you exit the elevator that carries you from the Visitors Center on the ground floor. If you choose the recorded tour, the pleasant voice of Pierce Allman guides you to a large photograph of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository as it appeared on the fatal day. Allman–at the time, a program director for radio station WFAA-AM, but not covering the presidential visit officially–explains that on that Friday, he stood across the street from the Depository, watching the motorcade. After the shooting, he ran to the building to call the station. "I asked a man who was leaving where the phone was," says Allman. "The Secret Service later identified that man as Lee Harvey Oswald."

The museum's audio and pictorial tribute to John F. Kennedy continues with taped excerpts from JFK's 1960 campaign speeches, campaign photographs, and a poster touting Democratic presidential and vice-presidential candidates Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Sound effects, interview comments from bystanders and dignitaries, and the words of Kennedy himself re-create the nation's mood before the assassination.

The Sixth Floor Museum, which chronicles the life and death of President John F. Kennedy, is at 411 Elm St., on the sixth floor of the Dallas County Administration Building (formerly the Texas School Book Depository) in downtown Dallas. Enter through the Visitors Center on the north side of the building. Hours: Daily 9-6; closed Christmas and Thanksgiving days. Wheelchair accessible. Parking is available both north and west of the building. The former depository and its surroundings were designated as the Dealey Plaza Historic Landmark District on Nov. 22, 1993.

Combination admission/audio tour (highly recommended) costs \$8, \$7 age 65 and older and ages 7-18, free age 6 and younger (admission without audio tour is \$5 and \$4). The audio tour is available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. A children's audio guide is available in English. Allow 11/2 to 2 hours for the tour.

The Museum Store offers books, newspaper reprints, and memorabilia, such as a first-day stamp cover (\$29.99) issued at Boston, Massachusetts, on May 29, 1964, on what would have been JFK's 47th birthday. Other items, which can be ordered from the museum, include The Sixth Floor Museum's Visitor's Guidebook to Dealey Plaza, \$4.62; the video Films from The Sixth Floor Museum (includes the 6 films viewed on the tour), \$22.99 VHS, \$28.99 PAL (for foreign VCRs); and the audiotape of The Sixth Floor Museum tour, available in the 7 languages listed above (\$11.95), and the children's version (\$11.95). For any order, add shipping charges of \$5 domestic and \$8 international. Texas residents, add 8.25% tax.

The museum maintains archives for research purposes. Call Gary Mack at 214/747-6660, ext. 6693, or Megan Bryant, 214/747-6660, ext. 6619, to arrange a research session.

For more information, write to 411 Elm St., Dallas 75202; 214/747-6660 or 888/ 485-4854. Web site: http://www.jfk.org .

A memorial park at Main and Market streets features a monument and cenotaph dedicated to President Kennedy.

To learn about accommodations, restaurants, and other sites in Dallas, write to the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1201 Elm St., Ste. 2000, Dallas 75270; 214/746-6600 or 800/232-5527.

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