As Dallas prepares for the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s assassination, SMU joins in the celebration of his life by commemorating the assassination and the effects it had on Dallas and America with the JFK:50 exhibit, located in Fondren Central Library.
The Fondren Library Exhibits Committee, with the help of the DeGoyler Library, put together an exhibit that showcases a wide variety of artifacts relating to the president’s assassination.
“We really wanted to commemorate the assassination as a historical moment. We want to be sure to not forget,” said Robert Walker, director of the Norwick Center for Digital Services and designer of the exhibit.
One of the standout displays includes six models of the camera that filmed the assassination. These models have been lined up, side by side, on a wooden board, symbolizing six seconds on the grassy knoll.
“It’s one thing to know the model of the camera, but to see it and pick it up, to realize that is weighs eight pounds, makes it more surreal,” Walker said. This item and several others came from Walker’s personal collection. He has spent 30 years researching Kennedy and his assassination.
Kennedy’s inauguration address from SMU’s government documents collection to letters the mayor of Dallas received from the Earle Cabell collection to fiction books about the president and how he died are also on display.
Many of the artifacts are reprinted replicas of the original documents. The Norwick Center for Digital Services played a large part in placing these items on display. The Norwick Center is able to take such detailed scans of documents that it allows for exact replicas to be printed, even down to the color and appearance of texture.
Several photos of the events on Nov. 22, 1963, and the following days are scattered throughout the exhibit. All of the photos are originals from the Belo collection here on campus. A section of the exhibit also pays a small tribute to Darwin Payne, a prominent reporter at the time of the assassination and a former faculty member at SMU.
This exhibit is only the most recent installment put on by the Fondren Library Exhibits Committee.
“Each year the Fondren Library Exhibits Committee installs five exhibits in the library that highlight different Central University Libraries events and other topical and timely events,” said John Milazzo, digitization and lab coordinator for the Norwick Center for Digital Services and head of the Exhibit Committee. “Each exhibit showcases library materials.”
While the committee has not yet received any formal feedback on the display, what it has noticed is an increased interest in the display.
“People were stopping to look at it as soon as we started putting it up. While we were putting it up,” Walker said.
While the exhibit explores the societal impact of the assassination, it makes no claims as to what exactly or how it happened that fateful day. Rather, it presents original material to help the observer think about and come to their own conclusion.
“We want people to remember what happened because it’s serious,” Walker said. “We want people to explore what they think happened.”
New items will be added to the collection as the anniversary approaches.