|By Brett Weiss
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Jan. 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy gave his inaugural address, telling America, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Less than three years later, on Nov. 22, 1963, the 35th president was assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald, resulting in four days of virtually uninterrupted news coverage.
To mark the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s death, the Newseum is hosting a new exhibit, Three Shots Were Fired, opening April 12 and running through Jan. 5, 2014. The title refers to the three rifle shots former U.S. Marine Oswald took from the sixth-floor, southeast corner window of the Texas School Book Depository where he was employed – as reported by the Warren Commission, which was headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Three Shots Were Fired will feature more than 100 artifacts, including the following National Archives items which have never been exhibited to the public: the casual long-sleeve shirt Oswald was wearing when he was arrested after the assassination; the off-white jacket police believe Oswald was wearing when he shot Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit; the orange-and-turquoise blanket Oswald hid his rifle in at the home of a family friend who lived near Dallas; and Oswald’s wallet containing family photos and military ID cards.
“This is a pretty incredible opportunity to work with the National Archives and be able to display these pieces,” said Newseum curator and director of collections, Carrie Christoffersen, speaking with USA Today. “(They help) tell the story of how news media responded, and how it fulfilled its responsibility to the public. The shooting led to unprecedented TV coverage over four days on the networks commercial-free. This was at a time when nightly newscasts had only just expanded from 15 minutes to a half-hour.”
Other items at the exhibit include: the typewriter Kennedy used aboard Air Force One; the first UPI bulletin stating that “three shots were fired” at the president’s motorcade; radio logs recorded by the Dallas Police Department on that fateful day; a drum used in Kennedy’s funeral procession; Secret Service agent Clint Hill’s service revolver (Hill hopped aboard the presidential limousine after the shots were fired); a collection of photos called Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe and more.
Rounding out the exhibit is an original film entitled A Thousand Days, which “recounts the youthful glamour the Kennedy family brought to the White House and highlights newsworthy moments of a presidency cut short.”