Talk the talk

Thirty-five years have passed since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but people are still talking about it. While everyone is entitled to his own theory, only those who were there in Dealey Plaza on that sunny November day in 1963 actually have memories.

Now, the Sixth Floor Museum is dedicating an exhibit to talking about those memories. JFK: Remembering the Story, commemorates the 35th anniversary of the assassination by opening to the public the results of its oral history project. Since its inception in 1992, the project has gathered some 170 interviews with the famous and not-so-famous who witnessed the events of November 22, 1963. From everyday people lining the parade route, to future Dallas mayor J. Erik Jonsson and Miss America 1964 Donna Axum, they all have stories to tell, and each presents a different aspect of what happened that day and comments on the effects witnessing the assassination had on their lives and on the future of the nation.

The exhibit uses photos along with tape-recorded and written material to give a broader view of that period of Dallas' history. It also includes information on oral histories, their relevance to researchers and families, and how they are gathered and studied.

When combined with the museum's permanent collection of more than 1,400 items focusing on the assassination and its aftermath, the exhibit is a JFK buff's dream. There, conspiracy theorists can check out the morbid Parkland Hospital collection, which includes the hospital records taken when President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Jack Ruby were brought in, and the KDFW-TV and KTVT-TV collections, which contain footage ranging from JFK's last speech in Fort Worth to the Jack Ruby trial.

But more revealing to the public are the recorded memories of witnesses, which give a more personal understanding of the events that have been covered ad nauseam by history books seeking to establish the official version of what happened. To those of us who weren't there, maybe these personal depositions by ordinary people will do a better job than historians did of explaining why, 35 years later, people are still wondering what really happened on that November day.

--Juliana Barbassa

JFK: Remember the Story will be at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, 411 Elm St., from November 19 through January 1999, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The oral history exhibit is free, but tickets for the permanent exhibit are $9 for adults and $8 for children and senior citizens.