Online Collection

Collection Highlights

Welcome to the Museum's Highlights page. Our curatorial department selected these groups of objects to highlight aspects of the assassination story, President Kennedy's legacy and a variety of materials in the Museum's holdings.

As we continue to add records to our online database, our curators will highlight more unique items in our collections. Check back often!

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Lasting from 1947 to 1991, the Cold War was a post-World War II period of geopolitical tension between former allies the Soviet Union and the United States. In America, the threat of Communism—often fueled by volatile political rhetoric—permeated daily life as school children across the country practiced “duck and cover” drills. Fallout shelters were designated and government agencies offered guidance on how to survive a potential nuclear war. Early in his presidency, John F. Kennedy suffered an embarrassing political setback with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, a secret plan intended to overthrow Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro. A year and a half later, the Cold War reached its peak over thirteen days in October 1962 when President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev became locked in a dangerous standoff regarding the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Through secret negotiations and remarkable leadership, nuclear war was prevented. In 1963, former U.S. Marine and onetime Soviet defector Lee Harvey Oswald expressed deep admiration for Castro. His actions in the summer and fall of 1963 have inspired conspiracy theories suggesting that Cuba and the Soviet Union were involved in the Kennedy assassination.
The 1960 presidential campaign between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was one of the most tightly contested in American history. Presidential debates were televised for the first time and many people have attributed Kennedy’s win to his polished and confident on-screen demeanor. Nevertheless, the race was extremely close, and Kennedy was elected to the presidency with a lead of just 0.16% of the United States popular vote and only 84 electoral votes. This selection includes objects from the Museum's 2016 temporary exhibit "A Time for Greatness: the 1960 Kennedy Campaign."
Bill Winfrey, a longtime photographer for the Dallas Morning News, was heavily involved in covering the events of the assassination weekend and later the Jack Ruby trial. His collection, acquired by the Museum in 2004 and 2007, includes almost 800 images encompassing subjects such as Major General Edwin Walker in 1962, Ambassador Adlai Stevenson in Dallas, President Kennedy's chair at the Dallas Trade Mart, the assassination aftermath in Dealey Plaza, Lee Harvey Oswald in police custody, Jack Ruby, the Jack Ruby trial, John and Nellie Connally at Dallas Love Field in 1964, Marina Oswald departing for her Warren Commission appearances in 1964, and numerous other events and individuals as recent as the Dealey Plaza National Historic Landmark District designation ceremonies in 1993. The collection also includes numerous artifacts and documents related to Winfrey's work.
Taken from a vantage atop a concrete pedestal at the southwest corner of Main and Houston Streets in the southeast corner of Dealey Plaza, the Bronson film and photographs provide a wide-angle perspective of the plaza during those crucial moments before and during the shooting. The film and images shown here were donated to the Museum along with a trove of related documents and correspondence. The Bronson Collection is of historic significance and is a subject of investigation and careful study by the assassination research community.
The Museum's collections include a wide variety of materials related to the struggle for civil rights both nationally and locally. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voters Rights Act of 1965 were passed after a great deal of national debate and social unrest, and are seen as one of President Kennedy's enduring legacies. Both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy continued to fight for civil rights in the years after President Kennedy's death.
In order to ensure its long-term care and preservation and to facilitate public access, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office placed their Jack Ruby Trial Collection (sometimes referred to as "the DA's Jack Ruby file") on long-term loan with The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in 2017. The Museum is working to make the entire collection accessible through this online collections database. The DA’s Jack Ruby file was compiled by Dallas County DA Henry Wade (1951-1987) and his associates as they prepared to prosecute Ruby for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Thousands of people turned out to greet the Kennedys at Dallas Love Field the morning of November 22, 1963. The Museum’s collection includes oral histories from people who were in the crowd including students and news photographers, as well as cameras, images and footage of the presidential party arriving at the airport and departing in limousines to tour downtown Dallas.
Donated to the Museum in 1989—two years before the newspaper closed down—these holdings contain original negatives of approximately 700 black-and-white news images taken by photographers for the Dallas Times Herald over the assassination weekend and beyond. Included in the collection are many unique and crucial images, and though only a few of these historic scenes were published by the newspaper, they provide a powerful visual record of President Kennedy's last hours, from his final speech in Fort Worth to his arrival in Dallas, the subsequent motorcade, assassination aftermath, and investigations. The images also provide compelling evidence of the grief and chaos that ensued in the days following the tragedy.
The Museum's collection of amateur films and images illustrates how home movies and personal photographs can capture history on an individual level. These collections include silent, color films of Kennedy taken during his 1960 presidential campaign and at his funeral in 1963, as well as historic footage of the president's trip to Dallas and films of Dealey Plaza, Dallas Love Field airport and the Texas School Book Depository. These films provide a significant visual eyewitness record of the Kennedy assassination and related events.
The Museum’s collection of materials relating to Jack Ruby include original television news footage of Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the Dallas police department on November 24, 1963; footage of Ruby in the crowded halls of the Dallas Police Department the day and night after the assassination; images of performers onstage at Ruby’s nightclub The Carousel Club and oral histories from people who knew and worked with Ruby; footage and photographs of Ruby’s 1964 trial; diaries, scrapbooks and oral histories from jurors who served during Ruby’s trial; artifacts belonging to the judge from Ruby’s trial; and artifacts, images and oral histories relating to Ruby’s incarceration in Dallas County jails and his time at Parkland Hospital before he died in 1967.
Lee Harvey Oswald, a temporary employee at the Texas School Book Depository building, was arrested by Dallas police officers within ninety minutes of the Kennedy assassination. Hours later he was charged with the murders of Officer J.D. Tippit and President John F. Kennedy. During the weekend of the assassination, Dallas investigators built what they considered to be a strong case against Oswald, linking him to physical evidence found on the sixth floor of the Depository and near the Tippit shooting scene. However, Oswald never had the opportunity to stand trial for these accused crimes. During a routine prisoner transfer on Sunday, November 24, 1963, local nightclub owner Jack Ruby murdered Oswald on live television in the basement of Dallas police headquarters. The act, which sent shockwaves around the world, ensured that questions would forever linger about Lee Harvey Oswald. What was his motivation? Did he act alone? Discussion, debate, and speculation continue to the present day. The Museum’s collection of Oswald-related materials includes documents, photographs, films, oral histories and artifacts.
The funeral for President John F. Kennedy, held on Monday, November 25, 1963, briefly united the world in sorrow. President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed it a national day of mourning, inviting the global community to join the United States in paying tribute to its fallen leader. The funeral and mourning rites left indelible impressions on millions, serving as a poignant coda to the chaos and tragedy of the Kennedy assassination. It also served as a significant cultural touchstone—a defining “where were you?” moment for a generation—and an early opportunity to reflect upon the legacy of the late president.
The ongoing audio-visual Oral History Project at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza explores the history and culture of Dallas and the 1960s, and preserves personal recollections regarding the life and death of President John F. Kennedy. These candid, informal interviews offer insight into the Kennedy legacy and the local—and global—impact of his assassination. In addition, the reflections of younger Americans, those born long after 1963, provide unique insights for this collection and help keep President Kennedy's legacy relevant to future generations. Museum lectures, panel discussions and public/educational programming are also included in the Oral History Collection. Approximately 60 to 80 new interviews are recorded each year.
The Museum’s collection of Parkland Hospital material contains original and photocopies of medical reports from the Dallas County hospital where President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally were taken for treatment immediately after the shootings. The collection also contains original administrative reports, doctor summaries, employee recollections and correspondence files related to the treatment of President Kennedy, accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and Oswald's killer, Jack Ruby. Also available in this collection is a copy of the autopsy report on Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, the police officer who was shot and killed in Oak Cliff shortly after President Kennedy was assassinated. Connally's records are not part of this collection; they were forwarded to his physician following his discharge.
The Kennedys and the Kennedy assassination have both had a profound effect on American pop culture. Because of their youth and glamour, the Kennedys inspired all sorts of admiring, satirical and imitative items ranging from spreads in LIFE magazine to dolls, record albums and comic books. The assassination itself also spawned a world of material culture items for people who were fascinated by the event – including items like souvenir postcards of Dealey Plaza and commemorative coins and busts of the president.
The 1968 assassinations of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy immediately became linked in the public mind with the shocking death of President John F. Kennedy five years before. The mourning for Dr. King and Senator Kennedy, and their legacies, not just as individuals who promoted civil rights and anti-Vietnam War agendas, but also as fellow victims of senseless killings, were framed by the mourning of President Kennedy. This trinity of martyrs remains forever intrinsically linked, as dedicated freedom fighters who died for what they believed in. More than that, however, these men would become symbols throughout the world, representing heroism in the face of adversity and hopeful agents of change, elevated in death to become legends.
From 1968 to 1985, Ohio artist Bernadine Stetzel responded to the Kennedy assassination by creating 71 paintings depicting the late president from cradle to grave. This unique collection, painted in naïve style, exemplifies the personal impact the Kennedy assassination had on individuals around the world. This Highlight features a selection of paintings from Stetzel’s Kennedy Series, as well as her oral history.
The Tom Dillard Collection includes nearly 200 original negatives of photographs taken or collected by the chief photographer for The Dallas Morning News over the assassination weekend and in subsequent years. The collection consists of mostly unpublished images, including pictures of the Kennedys at Dallas Love Field airport, a photo of a bullet mark on the Main Street curb that led to the "single bullet theory," photos of Lee Harvey Oswald in police custody, and candid images from 1964 of Oswald's wife, Marina, and the Oswalds' two daughters.
As President and Mrs. Kennedy’s motorcade turned onto Elm Street in Dealey Plaza, the Towner family stood on the southwest corner of Houston and Elm streets directly across from the Texas School Book Depository entrance. Jim Towner photographed the Kennedy limousine turning onto Elm Street while daughter Tina used the family’s movie camera to capture the same moments seconds before the shooting began. This Highlight includes records for both Towner cameras, four still images and the Towner home movie from November 22, 1963, as well as a 2008 oral history with Tina Towner.