JFK Presidential Library and Museum
I am not old enough to have lived during the Kennedy Administration and the 1960s. I guess I get caught up in the pageantry and magic of Camelot and of those heady days. I am not sure where it comes from, maybe from the question of “what would have happened had JFK lived?” but I have had a fascination with the man and the promise for as long as I can remember.
In 2012, I visited Boston because I had never been before and it was a good weekend trip to take. Never having been to a Presidential Library before, I checked out the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. I was not disappointed.
I want to state up front that I love the idea of Presidential Libraries and Museums. The idea there are buildings and collective works that can be studied and viewed fascinates me because these buildings and memorials are not customary in Canada.
The closest thing we have to this would be the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government. I wish we in Canada would do these more because of the inherent value of studying periods of time and their impacts on the country and externally. They also fascinate me because the history behind the artifacts and exhibits and seeing them come to life is pretty cool. There was no way this visit would be uninteresting.
We walk through the early years of JFK and up to his Senate election. We have all heard about these things as part of the legend – Navy captain, saving comrades who were drowning, breaking his back, writing several books before becoming President.
We then get into the run for the presidency, nomination and election.
The original election set from the 1960 debate. I was struck by how small and simple it all is – a few lectures, chairs, high tables…that’s it.
What I did not realize, and had to look up, is that each museum comes with a replica Oval Office that replicates the time they served and held office. This one had an interactive component for kids that’s what the cameras and monitors are for in the background.
As a permanent exhibit you walk through and learn about the successes and challenges of the presidency. In this case, we can rhyme them off but there is the Bay of Pigs and quarantine of Soviet ships, the mission to the moon, Soviet-US relations and nuclear deterrents, and the list goes on.
The last part of the museum and tour takes you through November 22, 1963 and the assassination of JFK. You can watch news clips and coverage of this event from the first reporting to the state funeral. But then, and I do not know if this is on purpose, you get a sense of hope coming out of this dark period. If this was intentional, it is very smart.
You walk through and you see the accomplishments that were started by the administration but came afterwards. Samples of moon rocks, the Berlin Wall, and other items are in the final exhibit before you come out in the main area where an American flag hangs in this glass atrium that looks very nice on a sunny day. You can look out onto the water and it is a peaceful and serene place. Because it was April, it was still cold in Boston but you could walk the grounds to the water as part of the park that accompanies and surrounds the building.
To date, I have only visited two Presidential Libraries and Museums, but there are so many more to visit. I would highly recommend going to at least one if you enjoy history and museums. There may be better ways to spend a few hours but considering how unique these buildings are, take the time if you can and visit them. You will not regret it.