Installing “Greatness”

by Katie Womack, Collections Manager, The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

Now that our new exhibit, A Time for Greatness: The 1960 Kennedy Campaign, has officially opened, it’s time to relax (just a little!) and take a look back at the installation process. While the few weeks prior to an exhibition opening are a flurry of activity in the gallery, the work of installation planning begins long before any walls are built or artifacts are installed.

Early on in the development of this exhibition, staff from the Curatorial and Collections departments began formulating a concept for A Time for Greatness, determining the “story” that would be told through artifacts chosen from our collections, text and video. For this exhibit, which focuses on John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign, we also wanted to provide visitors with an interactive experience and the concept of an interactive mock Kennedy Campaign Headquarters was born.

Collections Manager Katie Womack installs a classic photo.
Collections Manager Katie Womack installs a classic photo.

At this point, collections items were also being selected for the exhibition and space planning was beginning to take place. Figuring out where to put the walls and making sure there are enough space to accommodate everything we wanted to display–especially in a 1901 structure with columns and windows everywhere–can be a challenge! After many sketches, discussions and a morning spent applying tape to the floor to mimic the wall configuration, we finalized the layout.

We also needed to plan for and prepare collections materials for display in the gallery. All of the campaign posters needed to be framed and several also required conservation treatment.

Small objects and magazines would need to be displayed in cases; for this show we had some cases fabricated and some were generously loaned to us by our friends at the Amon Carter museum. Other items, such as a group of campaign pins, were carefully installed by staff in a shadowbox frame. Staff used archival materials to construct mounts for items such as bumper stickers and magazines and we devised a plan to hang an original, 11-foot-long(!) 1960 Kennedy-Johnson banner using rare earth magnets. Photographs from Kennedy’s September 1960 campaign stops in North Texas were reproduced at varying sizes and images of collections items were used in text panels.

Curatorial staffers create "Kennedy Campaign Headquarters."
Curatorial staffers create “Kennedy Campaign Headquarters.”

Once our amazing Operations team built the walls in the gallery, we were able to get in the space and start working! First on the agenda was the interactive Kennedy Campaign Headquarters. It was so much fun to move the vintage furniture and office accessories we had purchased especially for the exhibit into the gallery and see that part of the exhibit transform into a little slice of 1960. It’s been so cool since the exhibit opened to see so many fun photos of visitors “working” at Campaign Headquarters!

The week before the exhibit opened we worked with fine art handlers to move the pedestals into place, hang the campaign posters from the collection, install artifacts in the pedestals and hang the text panels and photographs. After getting the video portion up and running and doing some last-minute paint touch-ups, the show was finally ready.

Our team worked so hard on this new exhibit and we could not be more proud to show it to you! Come see A Time for Greatness for yourself and share your pics from Campaign Headquarters and meeting Kennedy on the campaign trail using hashtag #JFK1960!

Learn more about the exhibit and upcoming exclusive exhibit programming at