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New acquisitions for Dallas' Sixth Floor Museum will help tell the story of the Kennedy assassination

Kennedy assassination artifacts include Dallas police chief's badge and a doctor's faded, blood-soaked shirt
Photos courtesy of The Sixth Floor Museum
The badge and ID card of then-Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry, left, and the faded dress shirt from surgeon Dr. Robert McClelland, soaked with Kennedy's blood, right.

Some of the new items may be put on public display for the first time — for this year's 60th anniversary of the events in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas announced it's acquired new artifacts and personal letters for its collection, including cameras and films of President Kennedy's motorcade.

Mark Bell film of Dealey Plaza, November 22 1963

Among the items recently acquired and highlighted by the museum are handwritten letters—two by Jacqueline Kennedy urging novelist John Steinbeck to write an authorized biography of the president and another by Lee Harvey Oswald from Russia, complaining to his brother about Soviet censorship and American news coverage of Russia. In addition,150 linear feet of documents from Melvin Belli, Jack Ruby's attorney, were donated by the lawyer's family.

Kodak Brownie 8 Camera and Bell Film (November 22, 1963)

A vintage film camera for home movies, Kodak Brownie 8 millimeter
Photo courtesy of The Sixth Floor Museum
Mark Bell's Kodak Brownie 8 camera

F.M. “Mark” Bell, a mail carrier, wouldn't let his daughter miss school the day of Kennedy's visit. He filmed the motorcade traveling through Dealey Plaza with his new, single-lens, Kodak Brownie 8 camera so she could see the president.

At the sound of gunfire, he changed locations and filmed the president’s car speeding through the Triple Underpass, as well as bystanders running toward the grassy knoll. His 8mm color will join the museum’s photographic record of the events before, during and after the assassination. The home movie was featured in Life Magazine and Josiah Thompson's book, Six Seconds in Dallas, both published in 1967. The House Select Committee on Assassinations studied the film in the late '70s.

Jack Daniel Collection: Argus 8mm, pistol-grip, movie camera and footage of the assassination’s aftermath (November 22 and November 24, 1963)

Jack W Daniel’s 8 mm color film is the only known footage taken on the west side of the Triple Underpass. With his Argus movie camera, he captured 10 seconds of the assassination’s aftermath. It shows his children, unaware of the president’s condition, happily waving at the limousine as it speeds toward the entrance ramp to Stemmons Freeway and to Parkland Hospital.

Daniel returned two days later and filmed the memorials left near the Texas School Book Depository. The film camera, on loan since 1996, is now part of the permanent collection of The Sixth Floor Museum.

Shirt worn by Dr. Robert McClelland at Parkland Memorial Hospital on November 22, 1963

A discolored man's dress shirt belonging to one of the doctors who tried to resuscitate President Kennedy.
(Photo courtesy of The Sixth Floor Museum)
Dr. Robert McClelland 's shirt he wore while treating President Kennedy after the shooting

Dr. Robert McClelland was a surgeon on duty at Parkland Hospital’s emergency room. “When we took care of President Kennedy, I didn’t have time to change into scrubs, and I was . . . standing at the head of the gurney in my suit. And so, my suit was soaked in blood,” he said in a 2011 oral history.

The suit was cleaned but he kept the dress shirt with the president’s blood. The McClelland family donated the shirt to the museum.

Charcoal drawings of Abraham Zapruder film frames, published in Six Seconds in Dallas (1967)

Charcoal drawing of a scene during President Kennedy's assassination.
(Photo courtesy of The Sixth Floor Museum)
A charcoal drawing from one of the frames of Abraham Zapruder's film, capturing the moment when Kennedy was shot

Artist Arthur Hawkins drew 28 charcoal illustrations from the Abraham Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination. Because researcher Josiah Thompson was not permitted to use frames from the film for his book, Six Seconds in Dallas, Thompson commissioned the artworks from Hawkins.

Many of the drawings contain original, handwritten annotations. Thompson donated the collection to the museum.

Jesse Curry Collection

A vintage police badge and ID card.
(Photo courtesy of The Sixth Floor Museum)
The police badge and ID card that belonged to the Dallas police chief during Kennedy's visit

Jesse Edward Curry, Dallas police chief at the time of the Kennedy assassination, was a key figure before, during and after Kennedy’s visit. He worked prominently on security details, led the motorcade along the parade route, briefed the nation about unfolding events on live television and witnessed Vice President Lyndon Johnson’s swearing-in on Air Force One.

He continued the local investigation and testified in 1964 before the Warren Commission, evaluating evidence surrounding the assassination. Curry’s son Gene donated to the museum his father’s badge, briefcase and 300 documents collected for the chief’s book, Retired Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry Reveals his Personal JFK Assassination File.

In addition to artifacts, The Sixth Floor Museum has an oral history collection of 2,400 recordings with 500 accessible online.

“The Sixth Floor Museum provides a direct and powerful connection to a watershed moment in American history,” said Nicola Longford in a press release. Longford is the chief executive officer of The Sixth Floor Museum. “These incredible additions to our collection transport audiences by painting a vibrant picture of how President Kennedy’s death unfolded, enabling current and future generations to gain a fuller, more nuanced understanding of one of the most defining events of the 20th century.”

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, 411 Elm St, Dallas, Texas 75202
Open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Timed tickets are required in advance.

Senior in journalism at TCU, intern with KERA's Art&Seek