January 29, 2018

The Senate Wing Flag: Behind the Scenes

In planning Mourning a President, an exhibit about the funeral of John F. Kennedy, it was fitting that an American flag was selected as a key focal point. Prominently displayed is the flag that flew over the U.S. Senate during the period of mourning following the assassination of President Kennedy. This is the first time that this 15- by 10-foot flag, which is part of the Museum’s vast collection, has been on view fully unfurled since 1963.

The U.S. Senate wing flag is displayed on the seventh floor of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
The U.S. Senate wing flag is displayed on the seventh floor of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

The largest and most striking object in the temporary exhibit, this flag was hoisted above the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol building on November 7, 1963 as a matter of routine. When news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy reached Washington, D.C. on November 22, the flag was lowered to half-staff, and it remained that way until it was lowered on December 22, at the close of the official month of mourning. While this flag did not play a formal role in the funeral, it was a prominent symbol of the nation’s grief on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.

When installing a historic artifact for public viewing, the desire is to make an object as accessible as possible while protecting it from damage – be it from environmental elements such as light or from risks associated with the display methods. The flag provided a unique challenge, due to both its size and age.

A textiles conservator carefully prepares the U.S. Senate wing flag for installation as part of the Mourning a President exhibit at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
A textiles conservator carefully prepares the U.S. Senate wing flag for installation as part of the Mourning a President exhibit

In the exhibit’s planning phase, the Museum’s Collections staff enlisted a textiles conservator to examine the historic flag to help determine if it could be safely displayed. In February 2017, this critical assessment took place in a public space where Museum visitors were intrigued to witness the process. Assured the flag’s physical integrity was intact, staff proceeded with plans to install the flag in the future exhibition. “It’s in very good shape structurally. There was some discoloration, mainly in the center of the flag, which is common when textiles are in storage,” says Lindsey Richardson, Curator of Collections. “Stains were present on the flag when it was acquired by the Museum, and we can only speculate as to their origins.”

It was important that the manner of hanging the flag in the exhibit comply with advisory rules for display and care of the U.S. flag set out in the United States Flag Code, while at the same time ensuring the safety and long-term preservation of the flag as a museum artifact. Mounted from a custom-made rod and sleeve that both support the flag’s structure and allow it to extend freely from the top, the fully unfurled flag provides a striking centerpiece to the exhibit. Museum visitors are able to view and appreciate the flag in its entirety, while its safety and preservation needs are addressed by controlled lighting and a barrier rail.

When the exhibit closes, the flag will be cleaned and carefully stored using archival-grade materials, preserved for future generations as an important symbol of the death of one of this great nation’s most revered leaders.

The U.S. Senate Wing Flag will be on display as part of the Mourning a President exhibit until February 19, 2018. This temporary exhibit, located on the seventh floor, is included with regular admission. For more information or to purchase tickets to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, click here.

 

 

Author’s Note: In 1954, President Eisenhower issued Proclamation 3044, which established federal guidelines for the display of flags at half-staff for national leaders and other officials as a mark of respect to their memory. The proclamation specified that upon the death of a president or former president, the flag must remain at half-staff for a thirty-day period. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was the first presidential death following the proclamation, making Kennedy the first for whom the month of mourning was observed.

Additional information about what the American flag symbolizes can be found here.

 

January 4, 2018

The IMLS-grant-funded Inventory Project: Behind the Scenes

Once every ten years, collections staff at The Sixth Floor Museum conduct something called a “wall-to-wall inventory” – it’s a way for staff to account for every item in the Museum’s permanent collection. In 2016, the Museum received a Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to help fund such an inventory. Intended to be a three-year project, the Museum started its latest inventory project in October 2016. Our Curator of Collections, Lindsey Richardson, oversees the project. Her first step was to hire two full-time Inventory Technicians – Anne Hanisch and Jennifer Browder. This is the team that will carry our project through from start to finish.

A wall-to-wall inventory is just what it says: a count of every single collections item in the Museum’s storage spaces. “Inventory is an important standard in museum collections management because it helps maintain intellectual control over collections,” says Lindsey.

“The collection is already really well-organized. There are at least 50,000 items, and we expect that number to increase as we go. This year alone, we have inventoried 15,000 items,” adds Anne.

Caption: Anne Hanisch (left) and Jen Browder (right) inventory items at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

Lindsey explains, “It’s important that we know exactly what we have, where it is, and if there are any storage issues that need to be addressed. In general, the standard has been for museums to conduct a complete wall-to-wall inventory on a regular, cyclical basis – in our case, every 10 years.” Thanks to the IMLS grant, The Sixth Floor Museum can add a few extra steps to the usual inventory procedures. “Instead of just counting everything and matching to existing data, we are also processing unnumbered items.” Lindsey goes on, “So, at the end of the inventory, every item in our collections should have both a number (that will make tracking and finding it much easier) and a basic record in the database (which makes searching the contents of our collections infinitely easier).”

Jen explains further. “For example, one of the items we’ve come across is a board game – it didn’t have a number. Since the board game is an item, it gets an object number. Each little part that comes with the board game, such as the dice, cards and tokens, also needs to be accounted for, so each is assigned a part number. That way they are still connected to the game as a whole but are also accounted for as individual items in our collection.”

Caption: This board game from the 1960s comes with many parts such as dice, cards and playing pieces. Jen and Anne inventoried every single part associated with the object.

Jen also points out the care and attention to detail they and other members of collections staff practice in order to preserve, document and store objects in the collection: “We house every single object in archival materials so that they’ll be preserved for as long as possible. Hopefully, these 50+-year-old objects will remain in good shape so that multiple generations after us can still access them and learn from the stories and history they represent.”

This type of detail-oriented work can be difficult, but Anne and Jen are up to the challenge. The goal for the three-year project is to account for every item in The Sixth Floor Museum’s collection at every location where collections are stored. The team has already made great progress and other members of the collections department are happy to see the connections made between collections items and the improved quality of data for items already inventoried.

Both Jen and Anne are familiar faces at The Sixth Floor Museum. Anne previously worked in the Museum Store + Café, and Jen interned at the Museum while she was in high school. They both knew that they wanted to end up working in collections, and their degrees in history and museum studies have prepared them for the work they are doing at the Museum. They’re happy that the work they’re doing over the course of this three-year grant will have such a large impact.

“I think people need to understand how large a museum’s collection is. What you see on the surface, or what you see on display at the museum, is the tip of the iceberg. Since the museum wants to preserve and make accessible everything in collections, the things on display are the most obvious form of access. The rest, all the other collection items we have in storage, are hidden from view,” says Anne, “Because that’s the best way to ensure their preservation.”

Caption: Anne examines documents from The Sixth Floor Museum’s collection.

For the next two years, Jen and Anne will continue to work toward ensuring our collection is completely inventoried, with accurate data and archival, well-organized storage. And if you’re wondering about all the interesting objects they get to inventory, they love that part of their job, too.

“The coolest part about our job is we will get to handle every single one of those objects. So, it’s a large task, but it’s a very important task,” says Jen. Anne says it’s super-exciting to be working on an IMLS grant, especially for self-proclaimed history nerds like themselves. They wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services MA30-16-0215-16.

The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

December 12, 2017

Gift Shopping Guide: Museum Store + Café

If you’re looking for interesting, unique gifts this holiday season, stop by the Museum Store + Café, located adjacent to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza on the corner of Elm and Houston St. in downtown Dallas. You’ll find just the right gift for anyone who made your nice list this year, with items you won’t find elsewhere. Plus, you can feel good about your purchases knowing they directly support Museum exhibits and programs.

If you’re looking for interesting, unique gifts this holiday season, stop by the Museum Store + Café, located adjacent to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza on the corner of Elm and Houston St. in downtown Dallas. You’ll find just the right gift for anyone who made your nice list this year, with items you won’t find elsewhere. Plus, you can feel good about your purchases knowing they directly support Museum exhibits and programs.

 

President Kennedy’s Favorite Fragrance


Eight & Bob Cologne gift set

The Museum Store + Café offers two of President Kennedy’s favorite fragrances. Eight & Bob was introduced onto the market after a young John F. Kennedy met Albert Fouquet, the son of a Parisian socialite, while on a trip to France. Kennedy liked Fouquet’s cologne so much that upon his return to the United States, he asked Fouquet to send eight samples of the fragrance to him, and “if your production allows, one for Bob.” Hence the name “Eight & Bob.” The fragrance comes in a beautiful book display that explains the fragrance’s origin story and makes an excellent gift. It is priced at $175.

 

 Ornaments


Christmas ornaments featuring Dealey Plaza and the JFK Centennial (1917-2017)

The Museum Store + Café has a wide variety of ornaments, including White House ornaments and Texas ornaments made by local artisans. Buy an ornament that reminds you of your trip to the Museum to hang on your own tree, or gift one to a friend!  Whether you would like to remember Dealey Plaza or the John F. Kennedy Centennial, both are available at the Museum Store + Café and come in beautiful boxes perfect for holiday gifting. These ornaments are priced at $24 and $22, respectively.

 

Louis Sherry Chocolates


Louis Sherry Chocolates, shown here in Orchid and Nile Blue tins

When in the White House, John F. Kennedy’s favorite lunch was known to be grilled cheese and tomato soup with Louis Sherry vanilla ice cream for dessert. President Kennedy is said to have gifted a beautiful orchid tin of Louis Sherry’s chocolates to Jackie, but she was also fond of the Nile Blue colored tin herself. Both colors are available in two-piece and twelve-piece tins. The smaller tin costs $8.50 and would make a lovely stocking stuffer, while the twelve-piece tin, priced at $35, is a beautiful gift by itself. The Museum Store + Café also stocks the Diana Vreeland red tin if you desire a more festive color.

 

Caroline Kennedy’s Christmas Book


“A Family Christmas” by Caroline Kennedy

Caroline Kennedy provides an exclusive look into Christmas with the Kennedy family in her book: “A Family Christmas.” The book would make a beautiful gift, and it is filled to the brim with Kennedy holiday favorites, including poems, songs and traditions that the Kennedy family celebrated together during this season. “A Family Christmas” is priced at $26.95.

 

Toiletries fit for a President


Caswell-Massey Jockey Club Aftershave and Presidential Bath Soap

The Museum Store also carries Caswell-Massey, a brand that has been crafting fine toiletries since 1752, and supplying them to U.S. Presidents since George Washington. Two box sets including three bar soaps of President Kennedy’s favorite fragrance, Jockey Club, or a mix of the three scents preferred by Kennedy, Washington, and Eisenhower are available for $30.  The store also carries aftershave and cologne in President Kennedy’s favorite scent, priced at $38 and $44, respectively.

 

Jackie’s Favorite Candles


Rigaud candles in Jackie’s favorite scent, Cypres

Jackie was renowned for her exquisite taste and impeccable style. Jackie studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, spoke fluent French, and was known to enjoy luxury French items, like the classic she is credited with bringing to the White House, the Rigaud Candle. Jackie’s favorite candle, Cypres, a luscious Mediterranean scent, is perfect for burning during the holidays. Known for their beautiful and strong fragrances, Rigaud candles will delight anyone who receives them, especially those with a taste for the finer things. Priced at $70-$99, depending upon size.

*Prices and availability of above items subject to change.

November 22, 2017

Six Things You Didn’t Know about November 22, 1963

The world was shocked by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Reported across the globe, the news of President Kennedy’s death eclipsed all other events that took place that day. Here are some things you may not know about that day:

 

1. Prior to President Kennedy’s assassination, top news stories for November 22 included the Coast Guard recovering wreckage from a U2 plane near Key West, the AFL-CIO calling for a strike in favor of a proposed 35-hour workweek, and the reporting of the November 21 death of Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz.

2. The number one New York Times bestseller for fiction that week was The Group by Mary McCarthy. The number one non-fiction bestseller was JFK: The Man and the Myth by Victor Lasky.

3. Flying over central Florida on November 22, Walt Disney selected the site for what would later become the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando.

4. The Beatles’ second studio album, With the Beatles, was released in the United Kingdom on November 22.

5. More than 30 college and professional weekend football games throughout the United States were canceled or postponed on November 22, as were most high school games.

6. Almost 66% of American homes with televisions tuned in at 6:15 p.m. EST on November 22 as the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, addressed the nation following his return to Washington.

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