Well, I can cross one more off faster than I’d have guessed. Near the tail end of my teaching gig at Antioch, Libby, Michelle and I drove down to Boston for the day. One destination was the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. It turned out my friend Jay was in Boston for the weekend, and since I
dragged invited him to the second Presidential Library in this task — FDR’s in Hyde Park — it made perfect sense to have him to meet up with us.
It’s an impressive facility, just as nice as the museum side of the Carter Center. An introductory film sets the stage, followed by a series of exhibits. There’s no shortage of artifacts — to me, the most impressive is the coconut from Olasana Island (part of the Solomon Islands) that JFK carved a message into to inform Allied forces that the survivors of PT-109 were indeed alive. The coconut shell was on the President’s desk during his presidency and now is part of the museum’s collection. Why not? It helped make him into a war hero, after all.
There are a lot of really compelling photographs, both from the administration as well as Kennedy’s younger years. Given his social standing and the development of photography as an accessible medium, he might have been the first President in which it was fairly easy to document an entire life with photos. In addition to the JFK exhibits, Bobby Kennedy’s Attorney General Office is replicated, which was a bonus.
I was curious as to how the assassination would be handled. One of the final sections leads into a darkened hallway with just “November 22, 1963” on the wall. Then one turns a corner into an even darker room and you watch the famous CBS Walter Cronkite “special bulletin” coverage, which is playing on several TV monitors large and small. It’s effective, as they let the power of that particularly memorable news report convey the shock of the tragedy.
After that, there is a resource room with lists of Kennedy achievements and books. Finally, visitors enter a soaring glass atrium with an impressively large flag and a moving passage from the President’s inaugural address on the wall. It’s a nice way to end the museum tour.