Thursday, August 1, 2013

The JFK Museum, Boston, Massachusetts

We recently visited the JFK Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.  This is a great place for a "20th Century Americana" experience.  Not only does the museum feature the life, family, and political life of our 35th president, but it also is a great walk down memory lane for those who remember those years.  I was too young to remember John F. Kennedy, or his presidency, but I do remember many of the events immediately following his death.  His legacy, and his family legacy, of things like the Peace Corps, the Civil Rights Movement, the Space Program, Special Olympics and the on going Kennedy politics in the state of Massachusetts were all part of my growing up years. 

Like my recent post about the Wright Museum, or the CCC Museum, this is the type of museum that would be great to visit along with someone from an older generation, or even young people.  Families can generate wonderful memories and oral histories as they discuss and debate the artifacts and items on display at the JFK museum. The history of our recent past can be great conversation starters between generations.

Do you remember when televised presidential election results looked like this?
That is a mechanical tally board behind the news desk, not computer generated images.
Did you notice Walter Cronkite's name on the desk?  Can't you just hear his voice?

Young visitors to the museum had a good laugh at this display of 1960s television!

One lasting legacy of President Kennedy is the "Profiles in Courage" Award,
named for his famous book where he outlined eight famous senators who
took risked their careers by taking unpopular stands for their personal beliefs.
I bought a new copy of this book as my souvenir of our visit, and I remember
reading my father's dogeared paperback copy of Profiles in Courage in high school. 

Derry, New Hampshire native Alan Shepard flew in this space capsule, Freedom 7. on
5 May 1961, a few months before I was born.  This was America's first manned space flight. 
My husband, the aerospace engineer, was thrilled to see this on display.

There are many photographs, displays and artifacts on the Kennedy family at this museum.
I always liked this photo the best, showing a happy family on the eve of World War II,
just before tragedy struck and took the first of JFK's eight siblings. 

There is a special exhibit going on about the Cuban Missile Crisis until 1 December 2013.
Many recently de-classified documents and recordings are part of this exhibit, which focuses on the 
thirteen days in October 1962 when the USA and Russia almost came to a nuclear confrontation.
These two upholstered chairs are the same two chairs shared by Premier Khrushchev
 and President Kennedy in this famous photograph.

Some of the Cuban Missile Crisis exhibit examines the Cold War and how the American people prepared for the event of a nuclear confrontation. These were the recommended items for a family's fall out shelter. How frightening it must have been to have such a scary possibility.  I'm glad I'm too young to remember this era in American History.

My first birthday happened during these famous 13 days in October 1962.  My mother remembers hanging cloth diapers to dry on the line in the back yard, and having the jet fighters from Pease Airforce base flying over the house on their way down the East Coast during the crisis.  This is a memory she has mentioned many times, and after seeing this exhibit I know understand how frightening those 13 days must have been for all Americans.

What memories do you have of this time period? Your parents and older relatives would have great memories to record as part of your family history.  Scary or hopeful, sad or happy memories of the "Camelot Years" when the Kennedy family was in the White House can be a great jump off point to begin a written or recorded conversation with your relatives as part of your genealogy.

The JFK Presidential Museum and Library 
Columbia Point, Boston, Massachusetts
(617) 514-1600   toll free (866) JFK-1960

The JFK library is one of 13 Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  Students, researchers and scholars can conduct research at the library in person, or online using the website above.  The mid-20th century life and politics can be a useful tool for understanding the lives and politics of our ancestors during the 1950s and 1960s.  

Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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