Sunday, August 8, 2010

If It's a Library, Where are the Books?

Our last day in Boston was another educational one.  One more trip on the train and we were out at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  Heather has always loved the Kennedys so she was super excited to check it out.  The Garretts had already visited the Clinton Presidential Library (Heather has been 3 times) when they lived in Arkansas so they knew the drill.  For just $12 we were going to find lots of cool stuff to look at and plenty of thing for Brett to read...right?

The library sits on Columbia Point right next to the University of Massachusetts and is next door to the Massachusetts Archives.  The official repository for original papers and correspondence of the Kennedy Administration, it was dedicated in 1979.  The building is an impressive site with a huge pavilion facing the Boston Harbor.  With the warm air blowing off the ocean, it was a gorgeous walk around to check it out!

But to be honest, we were a little disappointed with the library.  Maybe too many expectations, or maybe they could have just put some more stuff in it. With all of the great Kennedy memorabilia and articles that have survived over time, it just didn't seem as though there was very much actually there.  Some of the exhibits were sparsely filled and a few rooms were nothing more than just framed pictures on the wall.

The library seemed very unorganized and was pieced together randomly.  We walked into an exhibit that told about his 1960 presidential nomination and then were led to the exhibit that showed where his childhood boat was supposed to be.  The library/museum jumped around and there really was no consistency in the flow of information.

Still in Style
Heather enjoyed the Jackie Kennedy exhibits but they were laid out much like the rest of the museum.  We saw her suit she used for campaigning, then her childhood artifacts and then the Emmy that she won for her television special on the White House.  And in that order.  Nice, but not a lot of sense?  There were only a few clips of home videos featuring JFK's children and no memorabilia or artifacts telling about their time in the White House.  Not even one shot of the famous picture of JFK, Jr. peeking out from under his father's desk in the Oval Office.

Profiles in Courage
One of the most prominent and oddest omissions from the library were the events surrounding JFK's November 22, 1963 assassination.  The only reference to this is a long black hallway with a few televisions.  They play a continuous loop of newsreel footage from clips that aired that day spliced in with video from Kennedy's funeral.  The entire video runs less than three minutes.  Heather has visited the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas which offers a much more emotional and fitting tribute to the fallen president.

The museum also houses a huge chunk of the Berlin Wall, moon rocks and many tributes to the Special Olympics.  We were taught in school that John F. Kennedy was a influential president and grew up learning about how this great man's accomplishments helped mold America.  For decades, we've been fascinated with his story, his life and his legacy.  It just seemed a shame his Presidential Library and Museum forgot to tell us about all that.


  1. Hmmm. This is good to know! I've been holding off on a visit here b/c I didn't think the kids would really be all that interested (them being in preschool and all). Maybe I won't waste my time at all. Thanks!