WASHINGTON — Some never-before-seen artifacts from the minutes and hours following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination went on display last week, along with an extensive collection of photographs of the young president’s family.
The Newseum, a museum devoted to journalism and the First Amendment, is marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination with a yearlong commemoration including two new exhibitions and a new film about Kennedy.
One exhibit, entitled “Three Shots Were Fired,” follows the events and news coverage that unfolded after Kennedy was shot in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. It will be on view until January, along with an extensive exhibition of photographs by Kennedy’s personal photographer, titled “Creating Camelot.”
For the first time, the museum is showing items from assassin Lee Harvey Oswald at the time of his arrest. The display includes Oswald’s clothing, a jacket that police believe he discarded, his wallet, and the wallet’s contents, including a card with the address of the Soviet Embassy. There’s also a blanket that was used to hide Oswald’s rifle in a friend’s garage. The objects are on loan from the National Archives.
“For me, objects always are tangible items that help people come into a story,” said Carrie Christoffersen, the Newseum’s collections director.
Many of the items are paired with news photographs from the time, including just after Oswald’s arrest, showing the interworking of the press and the Kennedy White House.
“We’re really telling this story through the lens of the journalists and how they covered it and then how the public experienced it,” Christoffersen said.
“Three Shots” unfolds chronologically from the first bulletin from United Press International that broke the news that “Three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade today in downtown Dallas.”
It includes more than 100 rarely seen objects, including the 8 mm movie camera used by Abraham Zapruder, who was the only eyewitness to capture the entire assassination on film. There are also items from reporters who covered the tragedy, including notebooks, cameras and a typewriter from UPI Correspondent Merriman Smith.
Curators said the assassination set off four days of nonstop television coverage, something that wasn’t repeated again until the 9/11 attacks. It was a turning point in media when TV became a primary source of news for most people, Christoffersen said.
The photography exhibition, “Creating Camelot,” features 70 images that were nearly lost in the 9/11 attacks.