25 Things

About the Museum

This year marks The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza’s 25th anniversary. The Museum opened on Presidents Day, February 20, 1989. In observance of this milestone, each month the Museum will share a list of 25 things about its history, interesting tidbits about President Kennedy, and little-known facts related to the assassination. Check back each month for a new list of “25 Things.”
 
To learn more, make an appointment to visit our Reading Room; explore our online collections database; or pick up a copy of Assassination and Commemoration, by associate curator Stephen Fagin, available online and in both Museum stores.

February 2014

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25 Interesting Facts about The Sixth Floor Museum (and the Texas School Book Depository)

1. The former Texas School Book Depository building was constructed in 1901 atop the 1898 foundation of another building that had burned down. The original building was only five stories tall.

2. Prior to becoming a textbook distribution warehouse in 1963, the building served as a showroom and headquarters for the Southern Rock Island Plow Company.   

3. In the 1970s, a group of Dallas business executives pledged over $100,000 to demolish the building and convert the site into a park.  

4. Dallas County purchased the Texas School Book Depository as part of a bond package in 1977 and converted it into the Dallas County Administration Building.  

5. The iconic Hertz Rent-a-Car time-and-temperature billboard was removed from the Depository in May 1979 after engineers determined that it was damaging the building’s structural integrity. The sign is now part of the Museum’s collections.

6. Preliminary conversations about The Sixth Floor began in March 1977; it would be another 12 years before the exhibit would open.  

7. The Museum’s original exhibit designers, the firm of Staples and Charles, also designed exhibits at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Monticello: The Thomas Jefferson Visitors Center and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

8. The external elevator shaft is not original to the building. The elevator and connecting sky-bridge were added in 1988 to provide visitor access to the sixth floor.
 
9. As visitors exit the elevator to the sixth floor, they enter the Museum’s core exhibit, “John F. Kennedy and the Memory of a Nation,” through a former window.

10. At the 1989 exhibit opening, a small display of commemorative postage stamps from a dealer in Great Falls, Montana, was to have been included. Unfortunately, the stamps were literally “frozen” in Montana for months by severe weather and didn’t arrive in time for installation.

11. During the building’s renovation, original pressed-tin ceiling tiles from the seventh floor were restored and repurposed for a new lobby area outside the Dallas County Commissioners Courtroom on the ground floor. The Museum also has some of these tiles in its collections.

12. Stamps and markings referencing the John Sexton Company, the grocery wholesaler that occupied the building form 1941 to 1961, can still be seen on the walls of the sixth floor.

13. More than 1,700 people toured The Sixth Floor Exhibit on its opening day, February 20, 1989.

Image14. The oldest object in the Museum’s collection is a commemorative coin dated 1898-1901 showing the 5-story Southern Rock Island Plow Company.

15. The second floor lunchroom where Oswald was spotted by police only seconds after the shooting is now home to Dallas County Commissioners Court offices. Furnishings from the lunchroom are part of the Museum’s collections.

16. The textbook boxes in the sniper’s perch are exact replicas, painstakingly made from photographs and measurements of the original Depository boxes at the National Archives. Original printing dyes from the archives of the textbook publishers were used to ensure authenticity.

17. The distinctive Texas School Book Depository sign that appears in many images from the assassination was left behind when the company moved to another part of town in 1970. The abandoned sign was rescued by the Dallas County Historical Foundation in the late 1980s and was recently restored by the Museum and placed on display on the Museum’s seventh floor.

18. While filmmaker Oliver Stone (JFK, 1991) received permission to shoot limited footage on the sixth floor of the Depository, the southeast corner of the seventh floor was used in place of the “sniper’s perch” on the sixth floor for longer film sequences.  The Museum has a number of props from the film in its collections.

19. In the mid 1990s, The Sixth Floor Exhibit changed its name to The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza to reflect its role as an official museum and a collecting institution and educational resource.

20. Dealey Plaza, including the Texas School Book Depository building, was designated a National Historic Landmark District on November 22, 1993, the 30th anniversary of the assassination.

21. The Abraham Zapruder family donated their collection of Zapruder films and photographs, along with all copyrights to the film, to The Sixth Floor Museum in December 1999.

Image22. Several people who saw the Kennedys in Dallas and Fort Worth in 1963 have toured the Museum and found pictures of themselves among the crowds, including Fort Worth native, actor Bill Paxton.

23. Since the Oral History Project was officially launched in 1992, the Museum has recorded more than 1,200 oral histories about the life, death, and legacy of President Kennedy and the history and culture of the 1960s. The first videotaped interview was with former WFAA-TV cameraman Bert Shipp.

24. The Reading Room, opened in 2010, provides free public access to more than 6,000 books, magazines, newspapers and videos from the Museum’s collections.

25. The wooden benches in the exhibit’s two theaters are crafted from loblolly pine recovered from the Bastrop, Texas, wildfire of September 2011.